Artemis claims pCell can 'blow the doors off' LTE spectral efficiency

Artemis Networks is claiming that its pCell technology far surpasses the spectral efficiency of even the most advanced LTE networks today. To demonstrate the capabilities of the technology, Steve Perlman, founder and CEO of Artemis, showed off 20 Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPads simultaneously streaming HD video using just 5 MHz of downlink spectrum and the company's technology.

Perlman made the demonstration Thursday at the Re/code Code Conference. He spoke to FierceWireless ahead of the demo and said that one of the criticisms Artemis has received is that some critics argue that the peak theoretical downlink limits of LTE Advanced networks at the center of a cell "might be able to do the same demo."

"We are going well beyond the theoretical peak of LTE," he said. "There's no possible way these iPads can be connected to LTE" and do what pCell does. He noted that the iPads have two antennas and the most they could achieve is connectivity via 4x2 MIMO. "The theoretical peak spectral efficiency is listed plainly on the 3GPP site and we are blowing the doors off of that," Perlman said.

Perlman shows off Artemis' iPad demo.

Perlman said that for a two-antenna device, the maximum throughput in 5 MHz of downlink spectrum is 8 bits per second per hertz. "We're going to be peaking at approximately 20 bits per second per hertz," he said.

Artemis describes its pCell system as a software-defined radio Cloud-RAN that connects through fronthaul to pWave radios distributed throughout the coverage area. The pCell system exploits radio signal interference, rather than trying to reduce or eliminate it, to synthesize a 1-centimeter diameter "personal cell" around the antenna of any standard LTE device in the coverage area.

Another advantage being touted for Artemis' approach is the fact that each additional pWave radio adds to the aggregate capacity of the pCell coverage area. Further, if a pWave radio drops out of the pCell network temporarily due to a power outage, the only impact is a reduction in aggregate capacity rather than a loss of service to the area. That means operators can save on capital expenditures because they do not need to deploy a battery or generator backup for every pWave radio.

Perlman said the demo achieves multiple things, including highlighting pCell's focus on spectral efficiency and making plain to content providers and operators that they can use pCell to increase network capacity.

Artemis says it is currently engaged with "dozens" of mobile operators worldwide and expects its first city and stadium trials in the fourth quarter of 2014, with larger scale deployments in 2015.

Perlman said all of those conversations with operators are "proceeding really well." Artemis is using spectrum controlled by Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) to conduct wireless tests in the San Francisco Bay Area. FCC documents posted last year pointed to Artemis testing its technology using Clearwire's 2.5 GHz spectrum in the San Francisco area; Sprint (NYSE:S) now owns that spectrum.

Perlman said Artemis is still conducting trials and is getting commercial 5-watt radios in June and will continue its work over the summer. "Everyone wants to move faster," he said.

Perlman declined to say where the first commercial deployments of pCell technology will be, but he predicted that operators are going to want to compete with each other to use the technology. "The first pCell system that goes live in Manhattan is going to be the only provider in Manhattan that provides absolutely reliable phone service and Web service," he said.

While larger carriers are interested, Perlman also said "many, many smaller wireless players" with small slivers of spectrum are also interested. Perlman said he expects to deploy the technology with multiple carriers in the fourth quarter, but when and how they turn those systems on for commercial users is unclear. "The technology is very easy to deploy," he said, because unlike normal cellular systems, the goal is to create interference.

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