Intel Gives WiFi A Big Boost

from the just-a-little-further dept

Some researchers at Intel say they've devised a way to send WiFi signals up to 100 kilometers (via Broadband Reports) using standard equipment, compared to the few hundred feet they can normally travel. Their system uses directional antennas and special software to do the trick, and it's intended to be used in developing nations to provide remote areas with internet access. Typically, WiFi signals are sent over a circular area, with the router in the middle. It's possible to focus the signal, using a directional antenna, in a particular direction, and use power just to send the signal that way, instead of all around. That's not really any secret or breakthrough, but it sounds like the Intel researchers' real innovation is in creating a system that electrically steers the antennas on both ends of the connection, automating what can be a particularly difficult task. While it's being suggested that this technology could replace WiMAX -- hence Intel's apparent lack of interest in rolling it out in the developed world -- this directional requirement makes this souped-up WiFi unsuitable for much more than backhauling other types of connections, particularly since it wouldn't be able to support multiple simultaneous connections. For instance, it could be used to send a net connection to a remote village, where standard WiFi gear could be used to share the connection locally. The advance here isn't in creating a potential competitor to WiMAX or other mobile broadband technologies; the innovation is in creating a solution to the problem of aligning directional antennas, which could potentially be applied to other wireless technologies beyond WiFi.
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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Mar 2007 @ 3:10pm

    Interesting development. At first glance Intel appears to have reinvented microwave transmission. Do we know the throughput and how much spectrum is required for this 'directional wifi'? I assume it will use unlicensed spectrum which may not pose a problem if this technology is backhauling in remote areas, but in urban areas, even in developing countries, spectrum licenses matter. And what about cost? The technology sounds cool - I like directional antennas - but I am sceptical of the application. Microwave and now WIMAX are cost-effective, proven backhaul transmission technologies. I don't see the 'problem' that Intel is trying to fix with this new technology.

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