Technology 3 min read

New Smart Surface can Boost 5G Signal Strength

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metamorworks /

Researchers from MIT have developed a new smart surface to boost wireless signals by ten times.

The fifth generation of cellular technology, 5G, offers several benefits over the current 4G LTE.

Aside from being ten times faster than the current mobile network, 5G also offers lower latency and higher traffic capacity. So, instead of waiting five minutes to download a movie on Netflix, you’ll only have to wait for 30 seconds.

The fifth-generation mobile network also raises the possibility of getting a uniform, consistent, uninterrupted connectivity across the globe. That’s right: we’re talking about IoT, VR experiences, and autonomous vehicle applications

Of course, 5G isn’t perfect.

Since the technology is still under research, tons of issues must be resolved before it can go mainstream. These include deployment, cost, security, and privacy.

There’s also the issue of signal strength.

The 5G network currently available, especially those running on a high-band spectrum are intended for outdoor use. That means, when a 5G user goes inside, he or she will lose access to the network.

Needless to say, it’s a huge barrier. This is especially true when you consider the fact that roughly 80 percent of all mobile data is consumed indoors.

Now, the researchers from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT, have devised a solution. It’s a software-controlled “smart surface” that can boose signal strength up to 10 times.

Here’s how they made it.

Creating a Smart Surface to Boost Wireless Signal Strength

Lead author Venkat Arun in front of the RFocus prototype | Image Credit: MIT News
Lead author Venkat Arun in front of the RFocus prototype | Image Credit: MIT News

The smart surface, called RFocus, contains 3,000 antennas to help boost channel strength within office walls.

According to the study’s lead author, Venkat Arun, this is the first time a communication link is getting that many antennas. And they function to enable multiple devices to gain access to the same network in a building.

One primary advantage of the smart surface may be its flexibility of use.

For example, users have the option of installing RFocus either on a wall or setting up in a cubicle. It can also be configured to act as a mirror or lens, depending on the users’ position to the device.

MIT Professor, Hari Balakrishnan explained:

“The core goal here was to explore whether we can use elements in the environment and arrange them to direct the signal in a way that we can actually control.”

The result is a wireless device that can transmit at the lowest possible power while providing a good signal. Balakrishnan also pointed out that RFocus is cost-effective and could be useful in a spacious area like a warehouse.

RFocus is not the first device that promises to boost wireless 5G signal.

In 2018, Kyle Jamison from Princeton University presented a similar solution. However, the CSAIL team claims that RFocus is more efficient and cost-effective.

Read More: 5G vs 4G: What’s the Difference?

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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