The fifth-generation wireless technology, or 5G, has been lauded for its potential to revolutionise communication and connectivity with faster speeds, lower latency, and increased capacity. Despite these advantages, a significant challenge that has emerged is 5G’s limited ability to penetrate buildings effectively. This article will delve deeper into the reasons behind this issue.
Shorter wavelengths have a harder time diffusing through obstacles and tend to experience greater signal attenuation when encountering barriers. This results in reduced coverage and weaker signals inside buildings, particularly when compared to the longer wavelengths used by earlier generations of wireless technology.
Modern construction materials play a significant role in impeding 5G signals. Common building materials, such as concrete, steel, and energy-efficient glass, can obstruct radio waves and hinder their ability to penetrate structures.
Metals, like steel, are highly effective at reflecting radio waves. Steel beams, reinforcements, and metal cladding can create a “Faraday cage” effect, trapping radio waves and preventing them from passing through.
Low-emissivity (low-E) glass is designed to reduce heat transfer and improve insulation. However, it often contains a thin metallic coating that inadvertently blocks radio frequencies, resulting in weakened or non-existent 5G signals indoors.
Signal attenuation or path loss refers to the weakening of radio waves as they travel through the air, affected by factors such as distance, interference, and atmospheric conditions. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in higher frequency bands like those used by 5G.
When 5G signals encounter physical barriers, such as walls, ceilings, and windows, their strength decreases further, making it difficult for them to penetrate buildings effectively. Additionally, the increased path loss at higher frequencies requires denser infrastructure deployment to maintain signal quality, which can be challenging in urban environments.
Urban environments present numerous obstacles that can obstruct and reflect 5G signals, including buildings, vehicles, and other structures. These obstructions can cause multipath propagation, which occurs when radio waves bounce off surfaces and take different paths before reaching the receiver.
Multipath propagation can result in signal distortion, interference, and reduced connectivity. This effect is particularly pronounced with mmWave frequencies due to their shorter wavelengths and higher susceptibility to reflection and absorption by objects in their path. Consequently, 5G’s ability to penetrate buildings is further complicated by these environmental factors.