Wi-Fi has made incredibly strong progress in penetrating almost every area where wireless communications are needed, despite its relatively humble roots as a LAN standard only.
It reaches into carrier-class networks and the internet of things as well as high definition home video, and its broad reach is creating an increasingly vibrant set of innovations and start-ups around it. These will be necessary to supplement the work of the standards bodies if the technology is to continue to adapt and advance, and meet the emerging needs of new wireless applications.
A series of interesting developments have been seen in recent weeks, all of which could influence Wi-Fi's positioning in the years ahead. One comes from a Stanford start-up called Kumu, whose new circuit and algorithms allow incoming and outgoing signals to use the same frequency without interference.
That could lead to significantly better spectrum usage and data rates, since all the spectrum could be used for both uploading and downloading at the same time. Radios generally use separate frequencies to send and receive, or switch between send and receive modes on the same frequency, otherwise the outgoing signal will drown out the inbound one. Co-founder Sachin Katti told MIT Technology Review that the Kumu radio generates an additional signal that cancels out the interference.
This is a different approach to established interference cancellation techniques, and could be applied to cellular networks, not just Wi-Fi – and especially in TDD networks where upload and download frequencies are not separated. Kumu will test its radio with “major wireless carriers” from 2014.
Another start-up with big promises is AirPlug, which says its technology delivers an 80% reduction in mobile data traffic burden without the need for new hardware, by combining Wi-Fi and cellular.
The company has scored its first publicly announced deployment of its AirCloud system, with Korea Telecom.