Ericsson refines antenna ‘stripe’ technology to improve coverage

Ericsson antenna
The antennas are designed to blend into the natural surroundings. (Monica Alleven/Fierce Wireless)

In an attempt to drive home Ericsson’s commitment to push the boundaries of technology, Ericsson President and CEO Börje Ekholm took a strip of what looked like cellophane out of his pocket during his early Tuesday morning address with media and analysts at Mobile World Congress 2019.

It wasn’t immediately apparent what it was exactly, but he referred to it as a “stripe” and noted that today, Ericsson deploys 5G systems with hundreds of cooperating antennas or antenna elements.

“We believe the next step will be to distribute antennas everywhere and we’re already pushing antenna development into the size of a matchbook. But in our labs, we’re also looking to create antennas so small and so flexible that we can integrate them with adhesive tape. We call them radio stripes, and they could actually provide truly ubiquitous connectivity in dense cities,” he said.

“We believe this is going to revolutionize the future of antennas,” he added, unfolding up one of the stripes taken from his pocket. Ericsson believes this technology is going to be “extraordinarily interesting” for indoor coverage, including in stadiums, factories and warehouses.

Ericsson CEO
Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm (FierceWireless)

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At a relatively small stand in Ericsson’s sizable booth, attendees could get a closer look at just what he was talking about. At the stand was Ericsson’s Jan Hederen, who explained that he wasn’t selling anything but conveying the company’s latest thinking around what could be possible with antennas 5 to 10 years in the future.

Part of the impetus for the adhesive tape design has to do with moving into higher frequencies, where blocking of signals is a byproduct of physics. Plus, “we want this technology to be everywhere,” so it needs to be super easy to deploy. Ericsson displayed the strips, which it calls “stripes,” of the material in different colors and combinations—with some taking on a wood finish and others looking more like drapes.

The stripes are so flexible that they can be camouflaged seemingly anywhere. “You shouldn’t see it, but it’s there,” Hederen said. It should be like “stripe it up,” he said, with inspiration for the design coming from academia in Sweden.

“This is a way to offer distributed serialized massive MIMO with beamforming,” he added. “It’s the super edge.”