MIT system aims to solve network congestion
Written by: Mark Venables | Published:

A MegaMIMO system developed by the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at MIT could speed data transfer by coordinating multiple routers at the same time. With phone usage growing faster than wireless spectrum, the fight is on for use of smaller and smaller bits of bandwidth. Spectrum crunch is such a big problem that the White House is getting involved, recently announcing both a $400 million research initiative and a $4 million global competition devoted to the issue.

But researchers from CSAIL at MIT say that they have a possible solution. In a new paper, a team led by professor Dina Katabi demonstrate a system called MegaMIMO 2.0 that can transfer wireless data more than three times faster than existing systems while also doubling the range of the signal.

The soon-to-be-commercialised system’s key advantage is its ability to co-ordinate multiple access points at the same time, on the same frequency, without creating interference. This means that MegaMIMO 2.0 could dramatically improve the speed and strength of wireless networks, particularly at high-usage events like concerts, conventions and football games.

“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,” Ezzeldin Hamed, a PhD student who is lead author on the new paper on the topic, said “The answer is to have all those access points work with each other simultaneously to efficiently use the available spectrum.

For the CSAIL team, the missing piece to the puzzle was a new technique for co-ordinating multiple transmitters by synchronising their phases. The team developed special signal-processing algorithms that allow multiple independent transmitters to transmit data on the same piece of spectrum to multiple independent receivers without interfering with each other.

The team compared MegaMIMO 2.0’s performance against both a traditional Wi-Fi system, as well as MegaMIMO 1.0, in which the user has to actively provide explicit channel feedback about the different frequencies.

The group’s technology can also be applied to cellular networks, meaning that it could solve similar congestion issues for people who actually want to use their phones to make calls. He says the team plans to expand MegaMIMO 2.0 to be able to co-ordinate dozens of routers at once, which would allow for even faster data-transfer speeds.

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