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Taking centre stage - Designing for a 5G society

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Students in the BFA programme at Umeå Institute of Design cooperated with Deutsche Telekom and Covestro in a pilot project developing creative designs for small 5G antennas.

Students were tasked with creating innovative antenna housings that fit in with the urban landscape, either by standing out with a decorative design, or by harmoniously blending in to their surroundings.

To date, one of the main challenges of launching 5G networks on the broader stage has centred around gaining public approval for the sheer number of small cells that need to be installed around the city landscape. Thus far, most models have looked clumsy and cumbersome, often sticking out like a sore thumb. Making matters worse, the ultra-high speed millimetre wave networks require these boxes to be positioned every 200 metres.

The challenge put to UID students meant they were responsible for conceptualizing the designs. They began by carrying out a field study in the streets of Düsseldorf. During the next steps of the process students drafted a range of innovative antenna housings with colours and structures that met the technical and aesthetic requirements set by the two companies. This resulted in a wide variety of design concepts.

In the spotlight at K 2019

This week, two of the final models were presented at K 2019, Europe's main plastics show in Düsseldorf, Germany. The two example models chosen were "the bird" and "the clock". The concept called "the bird", created by Felicia Evaldsson, considers 5G from a new standpoint, pushing the limits of what has previously been imagined. The clock design, "24h5G,"created by Lisa Thudén, integrates new material properties like translucency and thermal management for 5G small cell antenna housings, emitting an atmospheric light in the process. 

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"In the design project, we were able to place our technical requirements early on and work together with the students on their design ideas," says Dr. Thomas Jansen, Head of the Small Cell Competence Team at Deutsche Telekom Technik. "Together, we have developed powerful 5G solutions that can be harmoniously integrated into the cityscape." 

Previous efforts by major companies to integrate 5G networks in cities have mainly focused on hiding the antenna housings in different ways. The approach taken by students at UID could instead contribute to the identity of a city while adding functionality.

All images courtesy of Covestro.