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
    Ajax 4Hire, 29 Mar 2007 @ 2:34pm

    Sounds like phased-array antenna, possible if

    if you can sample the array of antennas fast enough (or transmit with just the right phase offset).

    Phased-Array antenna is decade old technology that is getting renewed interest now that very high speed computer control is available. You have to control the output phase to each antenna just slightly enough to have a very controllable powerful directional transmitter.

    Receive works just the opposite, sample the array of antenna in just the right phase and you can control the input direction.

    This is good because it uses no moving parts (above the size of an atom) and you can electronically control the direction.

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