Ericsson wants to make 5G networking easier with packing tape

ericsson 5g radio stripe network mwc 2019 tape
Jeremy Kaplan / Digital Trends

To network the average football stadium, you’d start by planting a tower right in the center of the field – guaranteeing great coverage for the athletes on the field, and crummy signal strength for fans sitting as far from it as possible. To improve things, you’d probably scatter signal repeaters throughout the seats, and maybe attach them to the walkways that encircle the stadium, and stick a few at the edge of the field, and …. Waitaminute. How do you connect all of that junk?

“You would end up with a hundred cables! It would be a spaghetti monster that would be just catastrophe,” Pål Frenger, an expert in radio network energy performance at Ericsson Research, told Digital Trends.

To facilitate better networking at challenging locations such as arenas, historic sites, and dense urban environments, Frenger and colleagues invented what they call “Radio Stripes” – essentially packing tape with serialized radios every foot or so and linked by flexible wire. To deploy, simply unroll and affix.

It would be a spaghetti monster that would be just catastrophe.”

“You just get much more even performance if you have antennas everywhere compared to just the one spot,” Frenger said.

The idea is a little slice of genius, combining not just antennas and network cable but addressing power deployment as well. The new frequencies and shrinking size of antennas (Ericsson says researchers can make them the size of a small matchbox) permit network access points to become ubiquitous, the company explains, but the actual deployment remains a challenge. Adhesive tape may be the answer. The product can be affixed easily and is potentially just as simple to remove, or you could install it under moldings or carpeting, or inside the frame of a building as it is being assembled.

ericsson 5g radio stripe network mwc 2019 tape 2
A piece of Ericsson’s Radio Stripe networking tape reveals radio modules and the power and networking cables connecting them. Jeremy Kaplan / Digital Trends

“We have this idea of making network rollouts super simple,” Frenger joked — taking a roll of the tape and simply rolling out a few feet on the floor.

Ericsson president and CEO Börje Ekholm unveiled the technology during an opening day presentation at the Mobile World Congress 2019 show in Barcelona, pulling a wad of the tape from his pocket and waving it around like ribbon from a birthday present. At the event, Ekholm declared that 5G – short for fifth-generation networking — was no longer simply marketing hype but reality.

“We are as of today rolling out 5G networks in North America with live traffic,” explained Börje Ekholm, Ericsson president and CEO. “The technology is here and there is more to come. We are truly switching on 5G in 2019.”

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