BARCELONA — 5 Barz used the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona to present the second generation of its Network Extender -- a small, lightweight device designed to solve the limited connectivity problem that cellphones and other wireless devices often suffer indoors and in poorly serviced areas.
The management team hosted a special demonstration of 5BARz's latest technology at Barcelona's Majestic Hotel on February 25. Gil Amelio, former Apple CEO and 5Barz's board chairman, said, "I believe that our engineering team has made remarkable advances in mobile technology that heretofore we thought to be impossible."
Cellular communications today are facing two big problems:
- In highly populated areas, such as large cities, there are over 50,000 cellular data users per square kilometer who generate 500 GB of data daily. This number will increase tenfold by 2016.
- In remote areas and inside buildings, cellular connectivity can be limited, and users experience frustrating call drops, slow data rates, and heavy battery drain on their devices.
5Barz is not looking to solve the first problem. That can only be addressed by the operators and the industry installing new infrastructure, optimizing their networks, and facilitating the use of different waves, such as WiFi, to increase data throughput and serve hungry devices.
However, 5Barz can address the second issue.
As of today, the only reliable option to increase signal strength has been the installation of small cells (Phantom Cells) to amplify the signal of the large base stations inside buildings and in other areas. But those cells are extremely expensive, require a complex installation and are difficult to service.
5Barz solution is a small box, weighing only 300g, with the antennas inside. It only requires 5W to operate and can extend 2G and 3G (LTE will be supported later this year) cellular coverage up to 4,000 square-foot radius. The system uses special patented technology to eliminate noise and only amplifies cellular channels, without interfering with other wireless technologies.
(I was able to test the system with my smartphone in the basement of the Majestic Hotel -- the only area with limited signal -- and the performance looks really promising. One of the advantages is the drop in power use by phone, since it doesn't have to increase transmission power looking for a cell signal.)
While 5Barz is not the only company offering this kind of technology, its Network Extender is one of the smallest devices on the market. Any user can just install the device inside their office or house and enjoy better connectivity.
The Network Extender could be sold as a consumer device, but 5Barz is initially offering it to network operators, who can market it as a solution for their customers. Operators are losing substantial revenue due to dropped calls and low data rates. Also there is the opportunity to offer new services such as videoconferencing and live streaming in otherwise poorly serviced locations.
Naresh Soni, CTO of 5Barz International, said:
We are excited to deliver a world-class consumer experience with our new device, which is simple to use with carrier grade capabilities. The 5Barz Network Extender includes several important technical innovations for achieving high system gains in a small form factor by leveraging our patented and patent pending technologies. Our roadmap and innovation pipeline will enable us to ensure we deliver even more compelling feature sets and performance for carriers and end-users.
There was no indication of pricing during the presentation, and 5Barz is now discussing agreements with major telecoms. Here are the specs for the new device:
- System gain up to 70 dB
- Covers 4000 sq ft area / SOHO
- Power savings for handsets of up to 80 percent
- Size: 140 x 100 x 41 mm
- Weight: 300 grams
- Number of simultaneous users: 10
- Frequency bands: 2100, 850, 900, 1700
- Modes: 3G/2G (future support for 4G) and 1800
- Power consumption: 5W
- EIRP: 25 dBm / 10 dBM (uplink/downlink)
- Noise figure: less than 3.5 dB
- Complies with FCC requirements for BBA sold in the US after March 2014