MIT brainiacs triple the speed, double the range of Wi-Fi

MegaMIMO gives data a smooth ride

Video Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) think they have perfected a system that dramatically improves Wi-Fi connections by eliminating signal interference.

Dubbed MegaMIMO 2.0 (multiple-input and multiple-output), the technique uses a processor, a real-time baseband processing system, and a transceiver board to vary the frequency range of Wi-Fi signals within the required spectrum. In this way, the signals don't interfere with each other and can reach their maximum potential.

"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 who is lead author of a new paper on the topic.

"The answer is to have all those access points work with each other simultaneously to efficiently use the available spectrum."

The other authors of the study were Dina Katabi, Hariharan Rahul, and Mohammed A Abdelghany.

The paper [sign-in required] describes the experiment whereby the researchers strapped four laptops on Roomba robot vacuum cleaners that moved around a test track.

The Wi-Fi base stations were able to up their data speed to the laptops by 330 per cent using the MegaMIMO system, and had a greatly extended range.

Youtube Video

"Since spectrum is scarce, the only way to improve wireless capacity is to add more access points and use some sort of distributed MIMO solution," says Sachin Katti, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford University.

"While there has long been skepticism that this could ever work in practice, Katabi's team has demonstrated that they can solve the many practical challenges of distributed MIMO networks."

Getting the system into widespread use might not be far away. MIT says it's close to having a commercial product and because the system works on base stations, consumers won't have to buy new hardware.

The team also plans to extend the technology to cellphones, allowing greater coverage and faster download speeds. The full paper will be presented at next week's Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Data Communications (SIGCOMM 16) conference in Brazil. ®

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