Researchers set off on road to 5G

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
13 Sep 2011

Researchers at Rice University claim a breakthrough that could allow wireless carriers to double throughput on their networks without adding a single cell tower.

Rice's “full-duplex” technology allows cellular devices to talk and listen to cell towers on the same frequency instead of separate ones. “Our solution requires minimal new hardware, both for mobile devices and for networks, which is why we've attracted the attention of just about every wireless company in the world,” said Professor Ashutosh Sabharwal.

He conceded that “the real change will be developing new wireless standards for full-duplex. I expect people may start seeing this when carriers upgrade to 4.5G or 5G networks in just a few years.”

Full-duplex, in the Rice implementation, can be added as an extra option to a device so that OEMs do not need to make a choice between modes.

It uses MIMO antenna arrays, which are readily available. and the Rice team was able to send two signals in a way that they cancel one another out, allowing a clear signal to go through over the single frequency. Signal cancellation had been proposed in theory for full-duplex networks a while ago, Sabharwal said, but the challenge was to implement this in off-the-shelf hardware.

The university will place its innovations into its WARP (wireless open access research platform) initiative, a set of processors, transmitters and other components which support engineers in testing new ideas without having to create specialized hardware each time.

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