Wireless link breakthrough: 6Gbps up and down

Researchers in Australia claim to have created a wireless link so fast that the entire works of Shakespeare could be transmitted over it in under seven thousandths of a second. A full DVD movie could be sent in just over three quarters of a second. For those with a more technical bent: The CSIRO ICT Center announced that it has achieved six gigabits per second over a point to point wireless connection with the highest efficiency (2.4bits/s/Hz) ever achieved for such a link. The team demonstrated the link yesterday by transmitting 16 streams of DVD quality video over a 250 meter link with no loss of quality or delays. The demo only consumed one quarter of the link’s capacity—so theoretically, could have transmitted 64 DVD quality video streams simultaneously.

The team’s leader, Dr. Jay Guo, said the breakthrough is merely a first step—the researchers have their sites set on a link that can transmit 12 gigabits per second. Guo offered a potential application for the technology: “The system is suitable for situations where a high speed link is needed but it is too expensive or logistically difficult to lay fiber, such as in congested urban environments, and across valleys and rivers… The system is also ideal for creating networks to meet short term needs such as emergencies and large events.”

The link operates at 85GHz, which makes the enormous speeds possible and is not yet crowded by other uses. However, radio signals in the millimeter band (30 to 300 GHz) are prone to atmospheric attenuation, which makes them of little use over long distances. Even for short distance transmissions, absorption of the signal by rain during showers could hamper and serious reduce signal strength. The researchers only transmitted indoors and at a distance of 250 meters, so I am curious to see whether this link could really work in the suggested applications.

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That said, after hearing horror stories like the one about a botched Comcast installation that blew up a house last month or the report today that a Comcast crew came out to dig up a yard to lay cable without even checking with the homeowner, a highly efficient, bandwidth capable wireless link for pay television services—far more efficient than satellite and without the costly dish installation—is certainly welcome.

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