New software boosts WiFi performance by 700%

When a lot of people use free WiFi all at once it can turn a helpful resource into a virtual traffic jam. New software hopes to fix that.

Whenever I see a sign for "Free WiFi" I'm always hopeful but highly skeptical, especially in busy places. Airports are usually the biggest offenders. With lots of passengers waiting in a terminal with nothing better to do than check their email, a virtual WiFi traffic jam ensues and I end up spending the entire wait watching my browser load.

Researchers from North Carolina State University have come up with a way to speed up WiFi in places where it's heavily used (airports, coffee shops, libraries, etc.). WiFox, a new software program, increases performance of WiFi networks by as much as 700 percent.

The problem with crowded WiFi networks is that a lot of data must pass back and forth through a single channel. When a lot of people use that channel it creates a data bottleneck and slower Internet speeds. That's where WiFox comes along, researchers explain:

[WiFox] monitors the amount of traffic on a WiFi channel and grants an access point priority to send its data when it detects that the access point is developing a backlog of data. The amount of priority the access point is given depends on the size of the backlog – the longer the backlog, the higher the priority. In effect, the program acts like a traffic cop, keeping the data traffic moving smoothly in both directions.

When the software was tested on a WiFi network that only allows a maximum of 45 users, performance actually increased by 700 percent with 45 users and had a 400 percent performance increase with 25 users.

“One of the nice things about this mechanism is that it can be packaged as a software update that can be incorporated into existing WiFi networks,” says Arpit Gupta, a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University, in a statement. “WiFox can be incorporated without overhauling a system.”

Wifi access is a great resource when it actually works. Hopefully, this software can turn WiFi hotspots back into those helpful resources they are intended to be.

Researchers Find Way to Boost WiFi Performance 400-700 Percent [North Carolina State University]

Photo: Flickr/slambo_42

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