The smart antenna start-up, ALCAN Systems and AGC, a manufacturer of glass, chemicals and high-tech materials, have successfully developed transparent antennas for indoor mmWave Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).

Following testing at ALCAN’s head office in Darmstadt, the results showed a real-world, effective solution to address the challenges of in-building penetration for mmWave 5G.

The technology uses ALCAN’s Liquid Crystal (LC) based phased array technology which allows for a transparent solution. This will be added to existing windows with a discreet FWA unit.  The FWA units give a low cost, low power, transparent and easy to install solution to address the challenges of mmWave penetration in-buildings.

ALCAN’s 5G solutions use liquid crystal which is controlled by an electromagnetic field. This can change the direction of the received or transmitted beam without needing to physically turn the antenna. This combined with the transparent nature of Liquid Crystal allows it to be integrated into glass solutions without impacting opacity.

The solution is specifically designed for windows made using low-emissivity (low-E) glass. This glass type is now standard or a regulatory requirement across several regions due to the energy efficiency savings it offers.

The low-E glass market is expected to reach an estimated $39.4bn by 2024, as a result and account for a significant proportion of windows worldwide. However, low-E glass significantly impacts the attenuation of mmWave frequencies. A double-glazing unit with low-E coating reduces the signal by 30 dB, meaning just 0.1% of the signal penetrates inside the building. The FWA unit from ALCAN works with AGC’s WAVETHRU technology to give a complete solution that significantly improves mmWave 5G penetration with minimal visual impact. In addition, by using Liquid Crystal, rather than traditional silicon-based alternatives, power consumption is minimised.

The solution has been tested and proven to address the challenges of in-building mmWave 5G penetration. The tests demonstrated a transparent antenna successfully operating at 28 GHz frequency. The indoor solution also successfully showcased the antenna’s beam steering capabilities, delivering multiple Gbps throughput consistently, as well as proving it is capable of beam steering continuously in two dimensions. This gives customers the greatest flexibility on where they choose to install the antenna in relation to the base station.

Commenting Onur Hamza Karabey, CEO at ALCAN Systems said, “We are very excited about the partnership with AGC and seeing the unique benefits of using liquid crystal technology, in this case, its transparent nature, allow a form factor that solves a real problem when it comes to mmWave 5G.”

Satoshi Tomonaga, Executive Officer, General Manager of Business Development Division at AGC commented, “The low-E glass is essential from an energy efficiency perspective and the collaboration with ALCAN ensures we can add value for our customers by meeting the requirements for high throughput anywhere in the building without affecting its appearance.”