The Battle for Bandwidth
Competition for resources is a tale as old as time itself; from food to shelter to finding a spot on the subway during rush-hour, it has been a catalyst for conflict in every age. Despite a historical tendency towards violence, we have overcome many obstacles and successfully combated the scarcity of resources through innovation and commerce. Technological advancements in farming, distribution networks, medical research, and transportation, to name a few, have made vital resources such as food, water and medicine significantly more available in the global community compared to a thousand or even a hundred years ago.
Limitations and Regulations
However, as technology advances, our resources become differently strained. The radio introduced the concept of using air-waves to transmit signals over great distances, eventually leading to the modern networks used by communication companies to connect devices across the world. Throughout the development of modern wireless networks, the competition for usable frequencies to transmit data became a problem, leading to a series of regulatory practices ensuring the fair distribution of available air waves between networks and devices.
One of these regulations states that local broadband networks shared by wifi and cellular signals be strictly divided such that wifi operates in one part of the available spectrum and cellular devices operate on the other, effectively creating two separate bands. Otherwise, due to their design, cellular devices would dominate the band on a shared network, preventing wifi connections from sending or receiving signals. The problem with this design is that when one band has a high level of activity and the other has little to no activity, the band with a high activity slows even though there is technically more bandwidth available.
A Combined Band
Northeastern University Professor and Director for the Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things Tommaso Melodia, much like the innovators before him, intends to make the competition for bandwidth between cellular and wifi connections an issue of the past. To more effectively utilize all available wireless resources, he has developed an algorithm that provides the ability to dynamically allocate bandwidth to devices in the network while maintaining fairness between the different types of connections; a drastic improvement over the static regulations currently in place.
Melodia’s design has the capacity to sustain more connections with better connectivity on the same network by utilizing the combined space of both the cellular and wifi bands on a shared spectrum. Rather than keeping the two bands statically separate, the algorithm seeks to fairly distribute connections on one unified band without letting cellular devices starve wifi in the local area. As a result, the network better utilizes existing resources to improve the performance of both wifi and cellular devices.
Using an algorithm to allocate wireless resources rather than relying on the design of a device provides better connectivity on wireless bands for the end user, boosting the speed of data transmission to and from the network on devices that use cellular data or wifi. Additionally, since the algorithm is software-based, it has the ability to be implemented on existing machines without modifying the hardware, thus requiring little cost to distribute in existing systems compared to other hardware-based solutions.
Due to the dynamic nature of Melodia’s algorithm, wifi and cellular connections are not restricted to dedicated bands and do not have to compete for resources when operating on the same band, leading to improved performance across all connections. In the modern age that produces on more wireless devices by the day, Melodia’s algorithm provides a method of allocating resources that we may soon not be able to live without.
Written by Joseph Burns
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Image 1 by Francisco Anzola. Some rights reserved.
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