A window to the future? NTT Docomo trials signal-permeable window material  


The windows are made of a light, porous aerogel that can provide less resistance to passing radio waves without jeopardising property insulation

This week, Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo that it is working with fenestration specialist YKK AP to test a new material for building signal-permeable windows, aiming to improve indoor reception from external radio waves.

Instead of glass, the windows being tested are made using a newly developed gel-like material called aerogel. According to Docomo, this light, porous material has a dielectric constant close to that of air, therefore providing far greater radio wave penetration than traditional glass.

The trial will not only serve to official validate the material’s relative permittivity, but also allow the operator to test the interplay of various shapes and materials for window designs.

If the trial proves successful, Docomo hopes that windows made using aerogel will eventually be installed in homes and offices.

Indoor penetration has always been a challenge for mobile operators, with radio waves notorious for degrading as they penetrate walls and windows. In 2023, this is a growing challenge, with homes and offices being built with increasingly multi-layered and insular window glass, further inhibiting signal penetration.

In addition, mobile operators are increasingly making use of higher radio frequencies, such as mmWave (typically in the 24GHz band), to achieve faster and higher capacity 5G connectivity, the properties of which include decreased signal propagation and penetration versus lower bands. This problem will only grow in future, with 6G technology forecast to use even higher frequencies to deliver services.

Thus, Docomo suggests that developing new building materials will play an integral role in futureproofing infrastructure for next-generation connectivity, noting that the company will conduct further tests focussing on millimetre and terahertz radio frequencies in the future.

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