Connected Nation - Pitch: Zinwave - Richard Penty, University of Cambridge

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Bored of bad cellphone coverage? EPSRC-supported Radio over Fibre system research at Cambridge and UCL was commercialised via the successful spin-out Zinwave Ltd. Zinwave’s products can provide a high speed cellular service using multiple input multiple output technologies (4G, LTE, MIMO) alongside more conventional services, such as 3G and wi-fi.

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Richard Penty, University of Cambridge

I’m here to talk today about a company that we span out along with colleagues at UCL, Alwyn Seeds there, about ten years ago now; a company called Zinwave. This grew out from some ideas we had about ten years ago, before your mobile phone was a mobile computer. And at the time there was a joke going around, but being an engineer’s joke it’s not very funny. But in the old days the phone was connected to the wall, and if the phone went, you came in from outside to answer it, and at the time mobile coverage in buildings was pretty poor, and so you went outside to get the coverage.

So as I said, not a great joke (audience laughs), but it illustrates the problem, which is that mobile phone signals do not get into buildings very well, and now 90% of all interactions with your phone are initiated inside buildings. What we did is we took some optical technology, we decided that it would be a useful problem to try to solve with funding from EPSRC, and we went forward and came up with a technique called an optical, digital distributed antenna system.

So you take the RF signal, you sent it over optics which is a difficult thing to do, to antennas spread around the building, and the signal from outside is repeated inside. You can make phone calls, and over time of course, the mobile internet has come along, and so you can now do all your social media, watch your videos etc, doing your emails, and many of you are doing them on your phones.

And of course, as Anthony Finkelstein said earlier, if Kenneth Williams, of Broadcasting House used to complain, well now at least, with Zinwave, because Zinwave have now put this system into Broadcasting House, the least he could do is email us. So come along, see what we do, and we look forward to seeing you.