Stanford Researchers Double Wireless Networking Speeds

A new invention by Stanford University researchers could lead to a doubling of wireless networking speeds
  • (PC World (US online))
  • — 21 February, 2011 08:21

Researchers at Stanford University have shown it's possible to double the data rate of communication networks without the need for additional frequencies, something that could lead to significantly faster wireless networking.

Described by its inventors as "simple and effective," the new technique relies on three antennas, instead of the two found in the latest 801.11n wireless devices. It allows full-duplex communications on the same frequency (that is, simultaneous send and receive), something considered before now to be physically impossible.

The radio spectrum is becoming increasingly congested and boosting speeds without requiring additional frequencies is the Holy Grail of electrical engineering.

When a radio device transmits, its broadcasts are too strong for it to receive any signals. It's like two people conversing; if you're speaking, it's impossible to hear what another is saying. Both parties must take turns to speak, and generally speaking this is how radio transmissions have worked until now.

The trick behind doubling speeds is to use something akin to noise cancellation found in some headphones. Because the transmitting device knows exactly what it's sending, it can filter it out in order to hear weaker incoming transmissions. Thus, two-way communications on the same frequency can take place.

"Textbooks say you can't do it," says Philip Levis, one of the team behind the invention and assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford. "The new system completely reworks our assumptions about how wireless networks can be designed."

The team behind the invention showed it off at MobiCom 2010 last year, a gathering of mobile networking experts, and won a prize for the best demo. Fellow researchers told them they didn't expect it to work and, when it did, said it was so obvious that it had probably already been invented.

There's still some way to go before the technology will make it into consumer or business equipment. For example, the researchers are still working on a way for their invention to work over the kind of distances required for typical wireless networking.

Additionally, wireless networking relies on standards that are adopted by all manufacturers, which is why you can use an Dell laptop with a D-Link router, for example. These standards are controlled by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the invention would have to be cleared by the 802.11 working group before being formed into a new standard. That's likely to take many years to complete, although progress could be speeded-up by the lack of need to set aside new frequencies.

The team is also seeking a patent for its work--which could restrict implementations of the technology--and limit it to those manufacturers who can afford to pay a fee. Because of this, the technology might manifest within future Wi-Fi devices as an extension to the existing wireless standards, usable only if the receiving computing device also has the extension.

This isn't uncommon among wireless device manufacturers, It's easy to imagine a company like Apple paying for the technology to be used in its AirPort base station and computers, for example, to double wireless networking speeds and give their products a competitive advantage.

(Keir Thomas has been making known his opinion about computing matters since the last century, and more recently has written several best-selling books. You can learn more about him at http://keirthomas.com. His Twitter feed is @keirthomas.)

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Keir Thomas

PC World (US online)
Topics: wireless networking, wireless technology, Networking, wireless, Stanford University
Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Compare & Save

Deals powered by WhistleOut
WhistleOut

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?