Researchers from a number of major universities are using math in a technology they call coded TCP to deliver data a lot more efficiently using wireless networks.
Coded TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) aims to interweave LTE and Wi-Fi data streams and solve data packet loss which could ultimately result in a tenfold boost in bandwidth.
According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Technology Review, researchers have succeeded in boosting “wireless bandwidth by an order of magnitude” all without heightening transmitter wattage, using more wireless spectrum or increasing base stations.
What researchers from the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), Harvard University, MIT, Technical University of Munich and the University of Porto in Portugal are using is algebra.
Coded TCP uses algebra to try to eliminate data packet loss and “seamlessly weave” LTE and Wi-Fi data streams, Technology Review says.
For wireless connections, it is rare to have the perfect connection where there are no lost data packets.
These dropped data packets need to be re-sent and then received properly, a process that clogs wireless networks as more data is transmitted than originally needed.
According to Technology Review, coded TCP “sends algebraic equations that describe series of packets” instead of just sending normal data packets.
By sending these algebraic expressions, the receiving device can solve for any dropped data packet in a series rather than request for a retransmission.
For those who may be thinking that this puts additional strain on devices and wireless network infrastructure because it needs to solve equations, Muriel Medard, a professor at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics and a leader in the effort, said that the additional processing is “negligible” due to the simple and linear nature of the equations.
To illustrate how effective this new technology is, let’s cite examples given by MIT.
The publication writes:
“The practical benefits of…coded TCP…were seen on a recent test run on a New York-to-Boston Acela train, notorious for poor connectivity. By increasing their available bandwidth…Medard and students were able to watch blip-free YouTube videos while some other passengers struggled to get online…
More rigorous lab studies have shown large benefits. Testing the system on Wi-Fi networks at MIT, where 2 percent of packets are typically lost, Medard’s group found that a normal bandwidth of one megabit per second was boosted to 16 megabits per second. In a circumstance where losses were 5 percent—common on a fast-moving train—the method boosted bandwidth from 0.5 megabits per second to 13.5 megabits per second. In a situation with zero losses, there was little if any benefit…”
According to the Technology Review, several companies have already licensed technologies for coded TCP.
The researchers say that it’s yet to be known if the technology works as expected in full-scale deployments but Rutgers University Winlab Director Dipankar Raychaudhuri says that coded TCP could be widely adopted by the industry in two years time.