A picture of a transparent antenna on a conference room door

7 FAQs About 3M Solutions for Transparent Antennas

5G is here. And it’s powerful. Network operators are densifying their networks to provide additional capacity and support future use cases. Antennas are increasing in number, complexity and size to support new spectrum allocations.[1] And in many cases, network operators, tenants and facilities managers will value inconspicuousness — antennas that are not easily seen in a lobby, a conference room or a terminal while enabling constant high-speed connectivity.

Several months ago, 3M hosted a webinar with The International Wireless Industry Consortium on “Transparent Antennas for 5G Infrastructure Applications” outlining some of our latest solutions to balancing inconspicuousness with performance. 3M Transparent Conductor Film allows antenna manufacturers to design antennas around a transparent medium, helping reduce the visual profile of the installed antennas. We’ve captured seven of the key questions from the Q&A here, or you can watch the full webinar at https://engage.3m.com/transparent-antenna-webinar-download.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is 3M™ Transparent Conductor Film?

3M™ Transparent Conductor Film is a thin, highly flexible, optically transparent, electrically conductive film that utilizes proprietary 3M technology enabling high-power, high-current, low-surface-resistivity and low-PIM transparent antenna designs. With high visible light transmittance, low sheet resistance and excellent flexibility, 3M™ Transparent Conductor Film enables antenna designers to create inconspicuous antenna products for indoor and outdoor applications.

What have historically been the challenges in creating transparent antennas? How is 3M addressing those challenges?

Historically, there have been several major challenges to creating transparent antennas. First, many technologies cannot support adequate power levels. Since standard PIM testing is performed at 2 x 43 dBm, antennas unable to tolerate this level of power are difficult to characterize for PIM. Second, some conductive film technologies inherently produce a high level of PIM. Third, transparent antenna technologies like ITO cannot provide the high conductivity required for high-gain antennas without becoming yellowed and subject to cracking.

3M analyzed four major technologies for making transparent antennas and concluded that a “metal mesh” approach was the best solution to enabling high power levels and high conductivity within acceptable levels of PIM and without yellowing and cracking.

What frequencies are currently supported by 3M™ Transparent Conductor Film?

 Our current focus at 3M is on sub-6 GHz frequencies. Performance has also been validated out to 7 GHz for WiFi 6E. 

What about mmWave frequencies?

3M is actively researching enhancements to 3M™ Transparent Conductor Film to optimize it for mmWave frequencies. To stay up to date on our latest product news and announcements, visit https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/communications-infrastructure-us/.

How does the antenna efficiency of 3M™ Transparent Conductor Film compare to solid copper antennas?

3M testing has shown comparable efficiency or a minimal efficiency loss between solid copper and metal mesh on PET across many antenna designs. Please contact 3M to arrange for access to detailed testing and comparison data.

What are some examples of successful antenna products using 3M™ Transparent Conductor Film?

Several 3M customers have developed successful transparent antenna products using 3M™ Transparent Conductor Film. Dengyo’s Visible Light Transmittance Antenna (VLTA) and VENTI’s Ceiling Mount iDAS OMNI antennas are two examples of currently-available products as of September 2022. Both can be used in either SISO or MIMO configurations. For more details on antenna product testing, watch the full 3M transparent antenna webinar at https://engage.3m.com/transparent-antenna-webinar-download.

How can I get a sample?

Please visit https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/communications-infrastructure-us/ and tell us a bit about your project so our team can understand your application and prepare a sampling plan. Allow a minimum of 2-4 weeks for review and processing.

[1] 1https://www.ericsson.com/en/mobility-report/dataforecasts/mobiletraffic-forecast