Wireless networks could speed up

Scientists have figured out a way of making wireless connections in public places increase speeds by up to 700 per cent.

The researchers NC State University (NCSU) have developed software that could easily by added to routers, which would instantly improve network throughput and latency. Currently wireless routers and devices all use the same channel to carry data back and forth.

If a large number of users are submitting data requests on that channel, it is more difficult for the access point to send them back the data they requested. Similarly, if the access point is permanently given a high priority – enabling it to override user requests in order to send out its data – users would have trouble submitting their data requests. Either way, things slow down when there is a data traffic jam on the shared channel.

Dubbed WiFox, the software works by monitoring the amount of traffic on a Wi-Fi channel and granting an access point priority to send its data when it detects that the access point is developing a backlog of data. The amount of priority the access point is given depends on the size of the backlog – the longer the backlog, the higher the priority. In effect, the program acts like a traffic cop, keeping the data traffic moving smoothly in both directions.

The research team tested the program on a real Wi-Fi system in their lab, which can handle up to 45 users. They found that the more users on the system, the more the new program improved data throughput performance. Improvements ranged from 400 per cent with approximately 25 users to 700 per cent when there were around 45 users.

This translates to the Wi-Fi system being able to respond to user requests an average of four times faster than a Wi-Fi network that does not use WiFox.

“One of the nice things about this mechanism is that it can be packaged as a software update that can be incorporated into existing WiFi networks,” says Arpit Gupta, a Ph.D. student in computer science at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the work. “WiFox can be incorporated without overhauling a system.”