MIT researchers may have solved the spectrum crunch

Researchers at MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics said they have discovered a way to improve wireless data transmissions without adding base stations or finding more spectrum. The researchers said they figured out a way for devices to use algebra to seamlessly weave data streams from Wi-Fi to LTE without dropping packets of data.

According to MIT's Technology Review, Professor Muriel Medard is leading the effort and the technology has been developed by researchers at MIT, the University of Porto in Portugal, Harvard University, Caltech and the Technical University of Munich.

Typically, a percentage of data packets are dropped due to interference or congestion when they are transmitted over a wireless network. Dropped packets cause delays and generate back-and-forth traffic on the network to replace those packets, which causes more congestion.

The MIT technology changes the way data packets are sent: So instead of sending packets, it sends an algebraic equation that describes a series of packets. If a packet goes missing, instead of asking the network to resend it, the receiving device solves the missing packet problem itself.

The new technology has been tested in Wi-Fi networks at MIT. The researchers managed to boost speeds from 1 Mbps to 16 Mbps in systems where 2 percent of data packets are typically lost. In situations where 5 percent of data packets were typically lost, the bandwidth jumped from 0.5 Mbps to 13.5 Mbps.

MIT researchers said several companies have licensed the underlying technology but MIT is under nondisclosure agreements and can't reveal those firms. The licensing is being handled by the MIT/Caltech startup, Code-On Technologies.

Although the technology is still in its early stages, the improvements are viewed as a breakthrough and some experts believe it could be widely deployed within two to three years.

For more:
- see this Technology Review article

Editor's Corner: What happened to the 'spectrum crunch?'

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