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No mobile signal? Blame hippies and their eco-friendly walls

Cosy rooms equal less connectivity - new study

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

MWC 2013 Mobile networks are losing as much as 88 per cent of their bandwidth thanks to energy-efficient walls and windows, we're told. The insulation seals in the heat and keep out the coverage, according to a company flogging a solution.

The Spectrum Research Group compiled the figures at the behest of SpiderCloud, which hopes that greater exposure of the problem will prompt sales of its intra-campus cellular networks.

The Spectrum Research Group claimed the average university site only propagates 30 per cent of frequencies available to mobiles. And that even where indoor coverage is available, we're told handsets flicker between radio slots fast enough to cripple battery life and strain the network with excess signaling.

Company campuses are the worst, apparently, with one site blocking the aforementioned 88 per cent of signals, but it isn't just weak reception that's preventing decent indoor coverage as having too many signals can be equally damaging to one's connectivity.

Tower blocks have always been problematic to network designers: not only do they cast an irritating radio shadow but the mitigating ring of transmitters - which one is obliged to build - means that handsets used within the tower are offered either an unmanageable range of options or no options at all.

Getting a signal to those inside isn't just a matter of punching through the insulation; modern networks will happily take signals bounced off walls and radio waves refract through windows like ripples on a pond, making for an impossibly complicated radio map.

Spectrum Research Group told us these effects can force a handset to switch base stations 51 times while its owner walks between floors, assuming the battery lasts that long.

SpiderCloud's solution to this problem is to camp femtocells - small base stations - on the existing Ethernet cabling, and (unlike traditional femtos) integrate them into the wider mobile phone network.

This allows the smaller stations to juggle calls to and from users as they move in and out of the coverage area. The equipment is thus fitted and managed by a network operator.

If one is prepared to adopt a patch-work approach, and lose the occasional call between cells, then independent femtos work too, or one can just offload all the cellular traffic onto Wi-Fi networks that already exist.

Wi-Fi's lack of intelligence works in its favour here, in terms of preventing a handset from switching between various frequencies, as devices stick with a particular wireless network until the signal completely disappears from range.

But that makes it all but unsuitable for carrying voice calls while walking as connections tend to die before the device successfully latches onto another stronger network. Wi-Fi networks are also on the corporate LAN, cutting the user off from operator-provided services too, which is why some telcos are paying SpiderCloud to extend their network indoors. ®

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