Making wireless 10 times faster

May 6, 2014
Engineers are developing cognitive radio, a type of communication that avoids wireless traffic jams by using underutilized radio spectrum. Credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo

It is rush hour and every motorist on the highway is driving in the right lane. The center and left lanes are empty.

The scenario, as ludicrous as it sounds, describes how most wireless work.

Thankfully, researchers are developing a way to undo the gridlock resulting from the proliferation of smartphones, laptops and other gadgets. It centers on the development of , a type of wireless communication that instantly finds and uses the best alternative channels.

The technology, while still under development, could make 10 times faster. For example, it would take three minutes instead of 30 to download a movie.

"We're not fully using the that's allocated to wireless devices," says Dimitris Pados, PhD, professor at the University at Buffalo. "The system we're developing eliminates those inefficiencies, allowing the transfer of as much information as possible while minimizing cross-interference."

Pados is the principal investigator of a four-year, $2.72 million grant awarded to UB by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Co-investigators are Professor Stella Batalama, and associate professors Tommaso Melodia and Weifeng Su, all from UB's Department of Electrical Engineering.

Wireless devices – everything from smartphones to sensors that monitor rows of soybeans – share an increasingly crowded radio spectrum. The congestion not only limits how fast information can be shared via , it wastes energy, kicks people off the Internet and causes dropped cellphone calls.

The problem, however, isn't necessarily a lack of radio spectrum. It's how the spectrum is used.

Large bands of radio waves allocated to wireless devices often sit idle while other bands are crowded, according to the Federal Communications Commission and counterpart agencies worldwide. An example of this is AM radio, which in most locations in the United States is used less than FM radio. Cognitive radio promises to immediately identify unused channels throughout the radio spectrum and use them to share information.

"It's like an air traffic control system where the maximum amount of planes are taking off and landing at each airport throughout the world," Pados said.

The UB researchers will develop algorithms that optimize (as well as model and simulate) how the platform would work. Then, working with Rome, N.Y.-based ANDRO Computational Solutions, they will conduct actual tests of the technology using small .

The grant will support four graduate students who will work as research assistants, and four undergraduate researchers.

Explore further: US approves AT&T spectrum deal

Related Stories

US approves AT&T spectrum deal

October 17, 2012

US regulators approved a plan Wednesday allowing telecom giant AT&T to expand its network with under-utilized spectrum from satellite radio operator Sirius XM.

Increasing efficiency of wireless networks

November 13, 2012

(—Two professors at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have developed a new method that doubles the efficiency of wireless networks and could have a large impact on the mobile ...

Researchers push the radio rainbow's limits

October 1, 2013

Back when walkie-talkies and car radios represented the height of wireless technology, there were plenty of frequencies to go around. The spectrum of radio waves was easily parsed into discrete packets: one for the oldies ...

New research on gigabit wireless communications

April 10, 2014

Research on gigabit wireless communications has been presented by researchers from the University of Bristol at the world's leading wireless communications and networking conference, IEEE WCNC 2014, in Turkey earlier this ...

Recommended for you

Internet giants race to faster mobile news apps

October 4, 2015

US tech giants are turning to the news in their competition for mobile users, developing new, faster ways to deliver content, but the benefits for struggling media outlets remain unclear.

Radio frequency 'harvesting' tech unveiled in UK

September 30, 2015

An energy harvesting technology that its developers say will be able to turn ambient radio frequency waves into usable electricity to charge low power devices was unveiled in London on Wednesday.

Professors say US has fallen behind on offshore wind power

September 29, 2015

University of Delaware faculty from the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), the College of Engineering and the Alfred Lerner School of Business and Economics say that the U.S. has fallen behind in offshore wind ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.