When it comes to wireless communications, Steve Perlman doesn’t believe in limits. Even if those limits are backed by a half century of physicists and electrical engineers.
Before I explain Perlman’s new system, allow me to introduce you to Claude Shannon. While working at Bell Labs in 1948, Shannon published “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” which outlined his theory that there is a definite upper limit to the speeds at which data that can be transmitted wirelessly.
In the last six decades, “Shannon’s Law” (as it came to be known) has been repeatedly proven mathematically, and no one has been able to create a device capable of violating it.
You can imagine the strangled gasps and monocles popping off in shock when OnLive founder Steve Perlman took the stage at the recent NExTWORK conference and claimed his startup, Rearden Companies, has created tech that shatters the Law.
According to a conversation Perlman had with Wired, Rearden’s researchers currently transmit data at speeds “10 times the limit, know they can achieve 100 times the limit, and are optimistic they can push it to 1,000 times faster or more.”
I won’t claim to understand the science behind Perlman’s technology (known as “distributed input distributed output” or “DIDO” for short) but the feature list outlined at the conference is stunning.
According to Perlman, DIDO communications would eliminate the need for cellular towers. Instead, the proposed DIDO base stations would be about the size of a wireless router and have an effective broadcast range of 30 miles, through solid objects that would otherwise block cellular signals. Rearden scientists are hopeful that with more testing they can implement base stations with a broadcast range of 250 miles.
Even more impressively though, is the “unlimited bandwidth” DIDO seemingly offers. Wired explains:
If a cell tower today broadcasts on channels that have a capacity of 100 megabits of bandwidth per second, and 100 people connect to that cell tower and share bandwidth equally, each person’s connection will measure roughly one megabit per second. If 1,000 people connect, each will get 100k bits per second. With DIDO wireless signals, everyone within range would get the entirety of the channel.
“I know that sounds impossible,” says Perlman, “but literally if you have a cell that has 100 megabits per second worth of bandwidth in it and you have 100 people, each person gets 100 megabits a second. It’s really pretty amazing; you don’t interfere with anybody else.”
Full details can be found at the official DIDO patent.
The Wired piece seems warily hopeful that DIDO might remove any need for bandwidth caps on cellular networks, and while that may technically be true, there is still the problem of the cell phone business relying entirely on the ignorance of the average person to leverage insane profits.
And, of course, even getting to the point where we have to gather up torches and pitchforks for a trip to visit Verizon shareholders relies on the still suspect idea that Perlman’s DIDO tech actually does what he claims.
Normally I’d dismiss this kind of thing immediately as being impossible, but when it comes to Perlman, I’ve learned not to make that mistake. I thought the idea of streaming playable Crysis 2 in high detail to a low-end PC via cable Internet was a total impossibility until OnLive proved me wrong, so if Mr. Perlman says he’s broken the laws of physics in the quest for a better cell phone signal, I’m on board.