Researchers at MIT may have finally solved public wifi woes. A team at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) announced on Tuesday a new technology called MegaMIMO 2.0 that can triple wifi speeds and double signal range at concert venues, college campuses, and other large-scale access points.
Previously, researchers have been able to boost speeds and coverage by adding several transmitters to a device. Smartphones use a technology called MIMO that does just this, but even that has its limits. It seems the obvious solution is to throw more routers into the mix, right? After all, using several could help cover the areas with weak signal, while sharing the workload around several access points.
“The problem is that, just like how two radio stations can’t play music over the same frequency at the same time, multiple routers cannot transfer data on the same chunk of spectrum without creating major interference that muddies the signal,” said Hariharan Rahul, visiting researcher and a co-author of the paper, in a statement.
MegaMIMO, named for its expansion of the original MIMO idea, is a thing that exists. It’s kind of cumbersome, though, and it needs somebody to keep sending over channel feedback to help co-ordinate all the routers.
Rahul and his team developed an algorithm that would let routers automatically work out how to co-operate with each other without causing interference. The team at MIT set up four Roombas in a room, strapped on laptops, and sent them around a test area to see if the laptops could maintain a connection. They passed with flying colors: the resultant MegaMIMO 2.0 boasts a 330 percent boost in data transfer speeds.
Wifi may seem less necessary than before, with the rollout of 4G and the ongoing development of 5G cellular networks. All the while consumers are buying non-cellular tablets and laptops, though, public access points will serve a valuable purpose. Plus, with the improved range MegaMIMO 2.0 brings, it could help smartphone owners on small data plans stay in the network and avoid ticking over into expensive overcharges.