Creating a Wireless-Friendly Building

I'm sure most readers have experienced poor wireless communications inside buildings, whether you're attempting to receive a broadcast radio or TV station or communicate via cell phone. New techniques to make buildings more energy efficient don't help--window films designed to reflect infrared and low heat also reflect radio waves. Aluminum-backed insulation reduces HVAC workloads, but blocks RF. Engineers at the UK's University of Kent are working on ways to make buildings more "wireless friendly."

An article in The Engineer, Engineers Investigate Wireless Architecture Improvements, alerted me to the work at the University of Kent's research on the electromagnetic architecture of buildings.

The research is focused on how to use frequency-selective surfaces to allow some frequencies to pass into buildings, or between rooms, while blocking others. For example, a building could be designed to let in broadcast signals but block cell phone and wireless broadband signals that might cause interference to an in-building distributed antenna system, allowing greater frequency reuse.

The University of Kent is a member of the Wireless Friendly Building Forum an interdisciplinary team working together to make "the wireless performance of new buildings more predictable, and thus susceptible to design, as well as identifying remediation measures that might be applied to existing buildings and wireless systems."

Some of the questions the Forum is working on include: "Is there an approach to building design that can be adopted to improve the performance of wireless systems within them? What exactly does good performance look like? Are there some communications that users would like to block? How important is the ability to zone communications with physical means? How many users could a given wireless communications system in a given building support? Will wireless communications systems themselves evolve to solve all the current performance issues [rendering improved building design unnecessary]?"

The Wireless Friendly Building Forum has a link to the Loughborough Antenna and Propagation Conference Nov. 14-15 at Loughborough University. The IEEE is one of the conference sponsors.

Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.