Radio with antenna

No, it’s not a typo. We said Wi-FM. As wireless spectrum continues to become more and more scarce, to the point where there are now incentives for federal agencies to give some up, and connection issues continue to plague users, researchers are looking for ways to extend wireless access and make it faster through different means – like radio frequencies.

That’s right. Just like listening to your favorite radio stations on the way to work. Wi-FM looks to leverage radio stations to increase the speed of wireless connections and make them more efficient and effective. The issue arises when wireless frequencies get too congested and begin to interfere with each other causing very slow connections for its users. By using radio frequencies, devices can monitor the network and decide when the best time to transmit as to not interfere with anyone other networks. According to GizMag, “the system aims to prevent a person’s network data from competing with a neighbor’s data when packets of network data are transmitted at the same time. This is because data packets “bump into” each other if two networks transmit at the same time.”

“Wi-FM is quite a novel approach to the problem of contention, it uses near ubiquitous FM RDS (Radio Data System) signals to synchronize radios to the degree of milliseconds,” said RESOLUTE Partners Engineer Ryan Torres. “While the general concept isn’t new, traditionally radios have used GPS or IP based communication (managed networks) to achieve similar types of cooperative synchronization, but usually only within a specific product line. Currently, the only tools for cooperation between separate networks are built into the protocol and serve to reduce overall capacity for the sake of fidelity.”

To date, research on the topic has been limited. MIT conducted some a few years ago hitting the problem from a protocol angle, but there hasn’t been much about it since. At the time, It was really an effort at building a smarter error resistant protocol to reduce airtime utilization from re-transmits.

With changes to the 802.11 protocol in recent years and with the increased ease of deployment of “high capacity” networking, the perception of wireless networking as a commodity has become pervasive, amusingly enough this attitude and the total lack of RF stewardship in multi-tenant environments has driven the need (if not the uptake) of quality (NOT commoditized) wireless deployments.
On the flip side, all that errant RF energy is driving some interesting uses for something called ” PoWifi,” but more on that later.
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