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Breaking the wireless bottleneck with MegaMIMO

It might be after an earthquake, hurricane or a Superbowl victory. Too many people try to access the cell or wireless network and few can get through. In first-responder situations, of course, such network overloads can result in lost lives.

Hariharan Rahul has a solution called MegaMIMO.

MIMO stands for multiple-input multiple-output, a technology that uses multiple transmitters and receivers to transfer more data at the same time. In fact, all wireless products using the 802.11n standard support MIMO. 

MIMO technology takes advantage the fact that radio waves bounce off surfaces. As a result, a single transmission arrives at a receiver at slightly different times. With MIMO, receivers are able to combine those data streams, effectively increasing the throughput and range. Using MIMO, a wireless access point with three antennas can deliver transmission speeds of 600mbps, compared to 300mbps for an access point with two antennas.

MegaMIMO is an enhancement of MIMO that uses new signal processors and signal-processing algorithms to increase the throughput of current wireless access points by a factor of 10, and to more than double their range. What's more, MegaMIMO offers signal processing features that allow access points to handle multiple transmissions simultaneously.

"In today's networks, multiple access points cannot talk at the same time on the same wireless channel," said Rahul, who was on an MIT team that developed MegaMIMO, "If they do it will interfere with each of them.” MegaMIMO is a combination of signal processing algorithms and software coordination that allows multiple access points to talk together at the same time on the same channel."

By monitoring the signals, says Rahul, MegaMIMO detects patterns and is able to identify each transmission signal.

While the improved connectivity will help all wireless users, Rahul notes that it is especially critical for the military and first-responders. "If you're working in challenged situations where there is a lot of potential interference, you either have to transmit at very high power or you have to settle for very low throughput," he said. "MegaMIMO allows multiple access points to transmit together so that each user gets the data they want.

Rahul, received his PhD in 2012 and launched MegeMIMO Inc. in 2013. He's currently developing a prototype wireless access point that he expects to complete in the second half of 2014. He expects MegaMIMO access points, when they hit the market, to be priced "in the same ballpark" as current access points.

The technology can also be applied to cellular networks, and Rahul says he plans to pursue that avenue after bringing the WiFi version to market. "It's easier to demonstrate with Wi-Fi than in the cellular spectrum," he explained. To implement MegaMIMO on a cellular network will require working closely with a cellular provider.

Posted by Patrick Marshall on Dec 20, 2013 at 11:17 AM


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