BT speculates that new antenna technology could improve 5G network range and provide greater sensitivity than conventional radio antennas.

BT is undertaking a trial of new antenna technology that has the potential boost the range of 5G networks.

The receiver technology works by utilising a quantum effect called "electromagnetically induced transparency" to produce greater sensitivity in terms of finding weaker signals. BT speculates that this could boost sensitivity by more than 100 times.

A spokesperson from BT explained how the antenna equipment will work. “A conventional dipole antenna is a macroscopic solid conductor and subject to thermal noise as the billions of atoms jostle each other at room temperature. In a diffuse gas, the atoms interact much less, so thermal noise can be reduced, and the signal-to-noise ratio is reduced even for weak signals, especially in a narrow frequency band.”

Currently, the research team at BT Labs in Martlesham are working towards finding the optimum radio frequency (RF) modulation and signal processing for future use in radio networks, as well as miniaturising the equipment.

Although this process will take time, the technology does have the potential to provide a significantly higher standard of sensitivity than standard radio antennas. This would mean a reduction of mobile network energy consumption and the potential for receivers to be positioned in hard-to-reach locations. This could have significant benefits for rural areas that struggle to obtain 5G signal. In terms of financial advancements, cost savings may flow from this technological development.

A date for deployment has not yet been announced. However, according to BT Senior Manager for Network Physics, Fraser Burton, "A commercial product is at least three to five years out, so network deployment within the decade is possible."