Researchers Speed Up Wi-Fi

At Sigcomm 2016, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) presented results from a research project, which developed a method of transferring wireless data at a rate more than three times the speed and twice the distance of existing technology.

The technique, being called MegaMIMO 2.0 (multiple input and multiple output), coordinates signals from several wireless transmitters. The method enables multiple independent transmitters to send data over the same wireless channel to multiple independent receivers without interfering with each other. Eliminating the interference among access points allows each of the transmitters in an area to operate more efficiently.

The researchers behind MegaMIMO 2.0 claim to have solved a number of problems that have hampered implementation of distributed MIMO in real-world environments. If MegaMIMO 2.0 can be successfully scaled up to coordinate a large number of access points, it could find an eager audience among equipment suppliers and data-hungry consumers. The technology could be used to address data congestion at venues such as concert halls and sports stadia to provide smoother Wi-Fi connectivity, rather than the clogged throughput experienced when hundreds or thousands of people reach for the same access point.

MIMO itself has become an essential technique in most modern wireless communication protocols including Wi-Fi and LTE. By using eight uplink and eight downlink connections, infrastructure suppliers have reached speeds of about 3 Gbps for LTE-Advanced. The team behind MegaMIMO 2.0 said that the same algorithms used to triple the speed of Wi-Fi connections could also be used within cellular networks to optimise performance and increase throughput. No details were provided on implementations on 4G or 5G networks, but the possibility is intriguing.

As the airwaves of limited spectrum get more crowded with video and audio content, it will take clever approaches to boost network efficiencies to keep up with an insatiable appetite of throughput. MIT expects MegaMIMO 2.0 to be commercialised soon. The progress will be worth following.