Many of those living in modern, energy-efficient buildings suffer from poor indoor wireless coverage. On the surface, this issue may not sound particularly pressing – perhaps easily solved by simply opening a window – however, when it proves impossible to reach the police, fire brigade or ambulance service, the seriousness of the problem becomes apparent. RISE has tested and evaluated various solutions and shown that most residents should in fact be able to improve their coverage.
“Poor coverage indoors is on its way to becoming a social problem in Sweden,” says Mikhail Popov, initiator and senior researcher at RISE. “We build houses that are so well-insulated that signals simply can’t penetrate them. It is often necessary to open a window, undermining the entire concept of well-insulated, energy-efficient buildings. It then becomes an equally serious problem to be unable to receive calls rather than not being able to make them.”
Poor coverage in new buildings
This problem first came to light around 2010, when the building industry realised that if they followed existing building regulations, coverage in the building would be poor. In 2014, RISE and Mikhail Popov initiated a project to address the problem under the umbrella of Vinnova’s Challenge-Driven Innovation programme. In May 2018, Stage 3 of this project commenced, aimed at demonstrating high-quality mobile reception. At the same time the chance to incorporate professional WiFi in the entire building was added. Development of a supplementary business model for apartment buildings is also a part of the project.
“We are concentrated on critical and demanding services, in this case voice and emergency calls and eHealth, home health- and social care,” explains Mikhail Popov. “However, it is equally important to identify a working business model for the solution. It is vital that we come in at an early stage of the building project and resolve the financial aspects.”
Indoor antennae necessary
Previous stages of the project have demonstrated that, from a purely technical standpoint, it is not energy-efficient to ‘fire’ the signal in from outside. Quite simply, in order to ensure good wireless coverage indoors you need a local network with indoor antennae. According to a 2015 report from the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, in the region of 70% of Swedes are currently considering abandoning fixed telephone lines in favour solely using mobile phones. This, in combination with the fact that there are now hundreds of thousands of people living energy-efficient homes with coverage problems, makes it critical to develop a solution.
“It must be possible to make emergency calls from anywhere in the building,” observes Mikhail Popov, “ and that includes the stairwell, basement and garage. We must extricate ourselves from the situation we find ourselves in today, where there is no functioning communication, including for the police and fire brigade. Without functioning communication. the fire brigade is unable to send fire fighters into burning buildings, with potentially devastating consequences.”
In addition to RISE, participants in the project, which is scheduled to continue until may 2020, include Netmore, SABO, Hyresgästföreningen, JM, Atella fastigheter, Varbergs bostad, Förbo, Stockholms Kooperativa Bostadsförening, Ericsson and nWise. The first pilot tests are expected to begin at the end of 2018.