Spectrum Crunch

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to load a webpage on your phone with an overloaded network. And with phone usage growing faster than the wireless spectrum, everyone is forced to fight over smaller and smaller bits of bandwidth. Thankfully, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) said they have found a possible solution to this so-called “spectrum crunch.”

In a recently published paper, the team explained that the key to the MegaMIMO 2.0 system is coordinating multiple access points at the same time, on the same frequency, but without creating any interference. This means that the system could improve the speed, by tripling it, and strength, by doubling the range, of wireless networks, especially in venues with thousands of people all vying for the same signal.

But Does It Work?

To a point, adding more routers to a network can help with speeds and range. But eventually, the more routers added ends up slowing the network as well, as they all compete over the same spectrum. According to the press release, “the team developed special signal-processing algorithms that allow multiple independent transmitters to transmit data on the same piece of spectrum to multiple independent receivers without interfering with each other.”

Taking a page out of the Tom Haverford and DJ Roomba playbook, to test the system, the MIT team placed four laptops on top of Roomba robots and had them roam around inside a mock conference room. The result? MegaMIMO 2.0 increased the devices’ data transfer speed by as much as 330 percent!

“In today’s wireless world, you can’t solve spectrum crunch by throwing more transmitters at the problem, because they will all still be interfering with one another,” said Ezzeldin Hamed, a PhD student and lead author of the paper. “The answer is to have all those access points work with each other simultaneously to efficiently use the available spectrum.”


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