That feeling of wanting to smash your smartphone while connected to an over-crowded and impossibly sluggish public Wi-Fi network might soon be gone, as researchers at MIT have come up with a way to boost wireless network speeds by cleverly coordinating multiple routers.
Photo credit: Jason Dorfman/MIT CSAIL
The new technology, developed at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), has been dubbed MegaMIMO 2.0, and will not only make Wi-Fi speeds about three times faster, it will also effectively double its range.
It is based on the MIMO technology that's already used in wireless routers. For those unfamiliar, the technology works by sending multiple data signals over the same radio channel to increase transmission speeds. MegaMIMO 2.0 cleverly coordinates multiple access points, all broadcasting on the same limited frequency and spectrum, to boost speeds and signal strength without degrading the signal.
So why can't you already just install two or three wireless routers in your home to boost your Wi-Fi speeds? Multiple access points all broadcasting on the same frequency will end up creating interference, making it difficult for a device to decipher the data stream. It's like when two radio stations are broadcasting on the same frequency while you're driving between two cities. The signal gets through, but it's a garbled mess.
The breakthrough the MIT CSAIL team came up with was new signal-processing algorithms that allow multiple access points and transmitters to synchronise their phases to eliminate interference. With multiple wireless routers all broadcasting at the same time, more data streams can be simultaneously broadcasted than standard MIMO techniques allow. Just think of how much faster a file being torrented can be downloaded when there are more sources available, and you'll have a better idea of why this new technique can speed up Wi-Fi.
The researchers have already demonstrated MegaMIMO 2.0 working on up to four access points at the same time, but they're confident the new approach could be effectively used on dozens of wireless routers at the same time. But eventually it could also mean that installing multiple access points at home would do more than just kill Wi-Fi dead spots in your house.