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Wi-Fi speeds could triple and range double thanks to MIT breakthrough

Researchers at MIT's artificial intelligence labs have developed new algorithms that could significantly boost bandwidth and network quality.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Researchers at MIT claim to have created a network-boosting technology that could triple the speed of Wi-Fi and double its range.

The MIT team has devised a system that can overcome Wi-Fi bandwidth constraints that stem from the limited spectrum available for carrying data to and from devices wirelessly.

The researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) developed a new set of signal-processing algorithms which allow multiple routers, and other wireless access points, to concurrently transmit data to multiple receivers, using the same frequency and without interference.

The researchers outline the method, called MegaMIMO 2.0, in a new paper detailing real-time distributed multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) systems, which they claim can move data three times faster than existing routers and double their range.

While such systems could deliver general wireless speed improvements, the researchers believe they will be particularly useful in heavily-congested areas, such as concert venues, convention centers, and sporting arenas. The research may also change how enterprises and universities deliver connectivity to thousands of users, by allowing them to use available spectrum more efficiently.

The technique builds on MIMO, a wireless technology which bounces signals off walls, ceilings, and objects to hit a receiving antenna multiple times, from different angles. As Intel notes of MIMO, adding more antennas usually equates to higher speeds. For example, a router with three antennas can support speeds of 600Mbps, while a device with two antennas maxes out at 300Mbps.

However, the developers of MegaMIMO 2.0 argue more antennas cannot solve constraints on spectrum.

"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 on the paper.

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

The algorithms the CSAIL team developed to orchestrate these routers is the basis of the distributed MIMO system they call MegaMIMO 2.0.

According to MIT, the technology is "soon-to-be-commercialized" although there's no indication of when products that support it will be available.

MegaMIMO 2.0 advances version one of the technology, which was outlined in a paper in 2012.

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