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MIT breakthrough makes Distributed MIMO a reality for ultra-fast wireles

Researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are claiming a breakthrough called MegaMIMO 2.0, which can treble the rate and double the range for wireless data transfer.

A team at the famous university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), led by Professor Dina Katabi, has released a new paper describing the design and implementation of MegaMIMO 2.0, which they call the world’s first fully distributed, real time MIMO system. It uses the 802.11 protocol which underpins WiFi and claims to provide real world proof of the capabilities of Distributed MIMO, something vendors and academics have been discussing for years, but have found tough to transfer from theory to practice. It could also be applied to cellular technology, says the team, and will soon be commercialized, initially targeting high density environments like stadium events.

MegaMIMO 2.0 supports a fully distributed system with a full 802.11 PHY which also supports dynamic environments and mobile clients. The hardware is the size of a standard router and consists of a processor, a real time baseband processor and a transceiver board.

The researchers say that, while most academic work has focused on synchronization issues, this platform also addresses challenges in power control and channel tracking. It achieved 330% speed improvements and is targeting even greater ones, by coordinating dozens of routers at once.

Existing distributed MIMO systems are all based on cooperative multipoint (CoMP), a 3GPP technology. This uses a shared clock, distributed via GPS or a wire, combined with high throughput fiber backhaul to deliver signals to all the antennas, delivering high throughput and low latency. Vendors large and small, including Ericsson and PCell, have demonstrated such capabilities but have not commercialized them, even though massive and distributed MIMO antenna arrays are seen as an important enabler for 5G.

By contrast, MegaMIMO 2.0 “operates with fully distributed independent radios and does not need a single clock,” the paper says. “Further, it introduces a new technique for extending reciprocity to distributed MIMO systems and presents detailed evaluation results.”

“In today’s wireless world, you can’t solve spectrum crunch by throwing more transmitters at the problem, because they will all still be interfering with one another,” wrote the paper’s lead author, Ezzeldin Hamed, in a CSAIL news post. “The answer is to have all those access points work with each other simultaneously to efficiently use the available spectrum.”

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