MrSeb writes: "Engineers at NC State University (NCSU) have discovered a way of boosting the throughput of busy WiFi networks by up to 700%. Perhaps most importantly, the breakthrough is purely software-based, meaning it could be rolled out to existing WiFi networks relatively easily — instantly improving the throughput and latency of the network. As wireless networking becomes ever more prevalent, you may have noticed that your home network is much faster than the WiFi network at the airport or a busy conference center. The primary reason for this is that a WiFi access point, along with every device connected to it, operates on the same wireless channel. This single-channel problem is also compounded by the fact that it isn't just one-way; the access point also needs to send data back to every connected device. To solve this problem, NC State University has devised a scheme called WiFox. In essence, WiFox is some software that runs on a WiFi access point (i.e. it’s part of the firmware) and keeps track of the congestion level. If WiFox detects a backlog of data due to congestion, it kicks in and enables high-priority mode. In this mode, the access point gains complete control of the wireless network channel, allowing it to clear its backlog of data. Then, with the backlog clear, the network returns to normal. We don’t have the exact details of the WiFox scheme/protocol (it’s being presented at the ACM CoNEXT conference in December), but apparently it increased the throughput of a 45-device WiFi network by 700%, and reduced latency by 30-40%."
MrSeb writes: "A team of researchers from MIT, Caltech, Harvard, and other universities in Europe, have devised a way of boosting the performance of wireless networks by up to 10 times — without increasing transmission power, adding more base stations, or using more wireless spectrum. The researchers’ creation, coded TCP, is a novel way of transmitting data so that lost packets don’t result in higher latency or re-sent data. With coded TCP, blocks of packets are clumped together and then transformed into algebraic equations that describe the packets. If part of the message is lost, the receiver can solve the equation to derive the missing data. The process of solving the equations is simple and linear, meaning it doesn’t require much processing on behalf of the router/smartphone/laptop. In testing, the coded TCP resulted in some dramatic improvements. MIT found that campus WiFi (2% packet loss) jumped from 1Mbps to 16Mbps. On a fast-moving train (5% packet loss), the connection speed jumped from 0.5Mbps to 13.5Mbps. Moving forward, coded TCP is expected to have huge repercussions on the performance of LTE and WiFi networks — and the technology has already been commercially licensed to several hardware makers."
MrSeb writes: "A recent study conducted by UCLA professor Chunyi Peng shows that carriers generally count data usage correctly, but those customers who commonly use their device in areas with weak signal strength or to stream audio or video are often overcharged. Peng and three other researchers used data gleaned from an app installed on Android smartphones on two different carriers. The issue appears to be in how the system is set up to count data usage. Under the current scenario, data is charged as it is sent from the carrier’s network to the end user. What does not exist is a system to confirm whether the packets are received, and thus preventing charges for unreceived data. Peng demonstrated this in two extreme circumstances. In one case, 450 megabytes of data was charged to an account where not a single bit of it had been received. On the flipside, Peng’s group was able to construct an app which disguised data transfers as DNS requests, which are not counted by the carriers as data usage. Here they were able to transfer 200 megabytes of data without being charged. Overall, the average overcharge is about 5-7% for most users. While that does not seem like much, with unlimited plans gone and data caps in style that could pose potential problems for some heavy data users. Could you be going over your data allotment based on data you never received? It’s quite possible."
MrSeb writes: "The FCC is reviewing the rules it has for spectrum license ownership, particularly on how much spectrum any one company can hold. The FCC is considering this rework because the rules do not currently account for the properties of different frequencies of spectrum. There are three main classes of spectrum for cellular wireless networks: low band, high band, and super high band — but at the moment, they are all valued equally. Given that low band spectrum is valued favorably against high band and super high band spectrum in the market, and that AT&T and Verizon have by far the most low band spectrum, it makes sense for the FCC to adjust its rules in order to more accurately determine how much spectrum any one company needs."
MrSeb writes: "American and Israeli researchers have used twisted, vortex beams to transmit data at 2.5 terabits per second. As far as I can discern, this is the fastest wireless network ever created — by some margin. These twisted signals use orbital angular momentum (OAM) to cram much more data into a single stream, without using more spectrum. In current state-of-the-art transmission protocols (WiFi, LTE, COFDM), we only modulate the spin angular momentum (SAM) of radio waves, not the OAM. If you picture the Earth, SAM is our planet spinning on its axis, while OAM is our movement around the Sun. Basically, the breakthrough here is that researchers have created a wireless network protocol that uses both OAM and SAM. In this case, Alan Willner and fellow researchers from the University of Southern California, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Tel Aviv University, twisted together eight ~300Gbps visible light data streams using OAM. For the networking nerds, Willner’s OAM link has a spectral efficiency of 95.7 bits per hertz; LTE maxes out at 16.32 bits/Hz; 802.11n is 2.4 bits/Hz. Digital TV (DVB-T) is just 0.55 bits/Hz. In short, this might just be exactly what our congested wireless spectrum needs."
MrSeb writes: "Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a new wireless transmission system that works above all currently regulated spectrum frequencies. The new system works at the range of 300GHz to 3THz (terahertz), which is the Far Infrared (FIR) frequencies of the infrared spectrum. That spectrum is currently totally unregulated by any country or standards organization in the world, making it ripe for development of new technologies. So far the Japanese researchers have transmitted data at 3Gbps, but in theory speeds of up to 100Gbps should be possible."
MrSeb writes: "According to some numbers compiled by Michael Degusta, smartphones might just be the fastest-spreading technology in human history. The only technologies that come close is the adoption of television between 1950 and 1953, and the recent emergence (and rapid growth) of the tablet market. While his numbers are entirely US-centric, they are representative of other Western world countries. What about the rest of the world, though? Well, mobile phones (and now smartphones) are kind of unique in this regard. Historically, the adoption of advanced technologies is usually closely linked to a country’s GDP — but mobile phones have completely bucked that trend. In 2001, there was just one billion mobile phone subscribers — most of them in developed countries. Today there are six billion subscribers, and 73% of those (4.4 billion!) are in developing countries that account for just 20% of the world’s total GDP. In short, in just 10 years, mobile phones have almost reached saturation point in countries where people earn just a few dollars per day (and we have cheap ARM CPUs to thank for that!) Smartphones, with their larger screens and processors, are obviously more expensive than feature phones at the moment, but it’s only a matter of time until they’re cheap enough for worldwide adoption. In the first quarter of 2012, worldwide, 36% of all mobile phone shipments were smartphones, compared to 25% the year before."
MrSeb writes: "Yesterday, technical architect Cameron Byrne announced that T-Mobile has completed the deployment of IPv6 services across its entire network. This isn’t the first IPv6 network, but it is the largest wireless IPv6 deployment in the world. While there are still a few issues that need to be resolved, the IPv6 service works fairly well for most services. As a result, it will no longer be required to manually request access to IPv6 services. Instead, only a new APN needs to be added to the smartphone’s configuration to make it work. Additionally, T-Mobile is having success getting manufacturers to provide devices that support IPv6 over UMTS networks. If you’re a T-Mobile customer with a Samsung Nexus phone that is compatible with the T-Mobile UMTS network running Android 4.0, follow the steps on the T-Mobile IPv6 trial website to activate IPv6 support and begin the “friendly user trial.”"
MrSeb writes: "After years of bold theorizing, Bo Thide of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and a team in Italy have finally proven that it’s possible to simultaneously transmit multiple radio channels over exactly the same wireless frequency. In theory, according to Thide, we could potentially transmit an “infinite number” of TV, radio, WiFi, and cellular channels at the same time over the same frequency, blasting apart our highly congested wireless spectrum. Thide’s approach is rather simple. Basically, electromagnetic waves can have both spin angular and orbital angular momentum (OAM). If you picture the Earth-Sun system, spin momentum is the Earth rotating on its axis (producing the day-night cycle), and orbital momentum is the Earth rotating around the sun (producing the seasons). In standard wireless communications — radio, TV, WiFi — we only modulate the spin angular momentum of waves. For years, Thide had theorized that orbital angular momentum could also be added to wireless signals, effectively creating a spiral signal that looks like fusilli pasta; or, in the words of Thide, a “radio vortex." Now, in an experiment in Venice, Thide has transmitted a radio vortex over 400 meters. Infinite wireless spectrum, here we come!"
MrSeb writes: "A new patent from Intel hints that we might not have heard our last bleepchzzztdoingboingboing. The patent, called 'Audible authentication for wireless network enrollment,' outlines a system that uses coded bleeps, clicks, or even music to pair wireless devices. In essence, your TV would output a secret key in audible tones, and your wireless router would pick it up and grant access to the network. The obvious use case for this is keyboardless devices such as media streamers, or screenless smart devices like fridges, thermostats, and so on."
MrSeb writes: "Believe it or not, one of the most important parts of a mobile phone — the antennae — is also the most low-tech. There might be a hundred-million-transistor CPU at the heart of everything and a state-of-the-art Retina Display on the front, but the antennae for GSM, LTE, WiFi, and Bluetooth, are simply dumb pieces of metal. RF MEMS — RF microelectromechanical systems — will change all that. RF MEMS are semiconductor ships that can change their physical shape, and thus re-tune themselves on the fly. This behavior can be used to find the best signal for 3G or LTE transmission (apparently increasing speeds by up to 40%) and also to recover from the attenuation caused when you put your finger on the antenna — death grip, be gone! The first phone to use RF MEMS is the Samsung Focus Flash, but hopefully the tech will spread to more phones — and who knows, maybe 2012 will finally be the year where dropped calls become a thing of the past."
MrSeb writes: "Hinting at what high-tech homes of the future might look like, researchers from Intel and University of California, Santa Barbara have started bouncing 60GHz wireless signals off the ceilings of data centers to improve bandwidth between servers, and thus improving the performance of the internet at peak times. It's incredibly expensive (and tricky) to lay more cables between racks in data centers, but relatively cheap and easy to bounce data off a polished metal ceiling between servers. The researchers simulated a 160-rack data center with this 60GHz wireless overflow system, and increased total throughput by 4Tbps, or 500GB/sec — which should be more than enough for servers to survive a peak-time Slashdotting... for now!"
MrSeb writes: "From the story: "As fast as technology in general moves, the mobile device industry is moving even faster. One of the major drivers of this massive growth is the adoption by users of smartphones that eat up bytes over the carrier networks. As a result, the big US carriers have been moving with great haste toward faster 4G data standards. As it turns out, this is what’s exerting pressure to change the industry forever."
Everything from the power of lower frequencies, to Sprint's unwise repurposing of its WiMax spectrum to LTE, to AT&T's landgrab of T-Mobile's AWS bands is covered in this explainer."
MrSeb writes: "Rohm, a Japanese semiconductor company, has created a silicon chip and antenna that's currently capable of transmitting 1.5Gbps, with the potential to scale up to 30Gbps in the future. While this is a lot faster than anything currently on the market, the significant advance here is the reception and transmission of terahertz waves (300GHz to 3THz) using a chip and antenna that's just two centimeters long. Rohm says it will only cost $5 when it comes to market in a few years — a stark comparison to current terahertz gear that's both large and expensive. The problem with terahertz transmissions, though, is that it's highly directional — with a submillimeter wavelength, it's more like a laser than a signal. Terahertz waves might enable awesome device-to-device networks, but it isn't going to bring 30Gbps internet to a whole city block. More interestingly, submillimeter terahertz radiation is the next step up from the gigahertz radiation used in full-body millimeter wave scanners. Terahertz waves can not only see through clothing, but can also penetrate a few millimeters of skin."