Mobile reception at fiber optic speeds, with no dead zones or congestion. That’s the promise of a new technology being unveiled today by Artemis Networks and technology visionary Steve Perlman.
Perlman is the tech pioneer behind the cloud gaming service OnLive and WebTV, a thin client online service that uses a TV for display and is now owned by Microsoft. Through his company Artemis Networks, Perlman is now launching a new way of transmitting and receiving wireless broadband, which he calls pCell -- short for personal cell technology. The preliminary technology was originally called DIDO, and was first announced nearly three years ago. In fact, the Artemis website says the technology has been in development, with a small team working on it now for over a decade.
One difference in the newest iteration of the technology is that instead of a large cell being formed from a radio transmitting cell tower and shared by many devices, a small, device-specific cell is created. This means that rather than multiple devices competing for fixed capacity inside a large and conventional cell, pCell combines transmissions from various pCell stations to create full capacity for each device.
Successor to LTE?
Each device, inside its own bubble cell, can utilize full capacity because the smart transmission has defined a unique signal. Perlman said using this method can achieve fiber-optic speeds, and it also solves the growing problem of slowdown because of congestion by other devices, especially in urban areas.
Perlman has told news media that his technology will be the successor to the current LTE high-speed wireless technology. His lab-based demonstrations have shown such feats as the 4K UltraHD version of Netflix’s House of Cards series running on LTE mobile devices.
He told Businessweek magazine that his technology's ability to work with existing cell phones “means we have hundreds of millions of devices out there that are ready to go.” Perlman also said that he expects the proposed system will provide “the largest increase in capacity in the history of wireless technology.”
The pCell Pitch
The company's Artemis.com website claims, "pCell feels like mobile fiber [giving] consistent high throughput [with] low latency throughout the pCell coverage area. Whether sitting indoors, or riding a high-speed train. No cells, no cell edges, no handoffs, no dead zones."
"It’s time to stop thinking about mobile as unreliable or inconsistent," the Artemis pitch continues, and "time to start thinking about what’s possible with ubiquitous broadband."
‘Next Step’: Standards Bodies
Currently, Artemis Networks is installing about 350 pCell transmitters in San Francisco, and the company has expressed interest in working with a technology or telecommunications company.
Peter Jarich, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, told us that “the next step should be talking to standards bodies.”
He said that submitting this technology to such organizations would allow it to be thoroughly vetted and carriers could then adopt it without being dependent on a single vendor, Artemis Networks. Perlman’s company could license its technology after it has been adopted as a standard, such as under the established practice of “reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.”
There’s not enough known about Artemis’ technology at this point, Jarich said, to render any kind of judgement, but he liked “this idea of directional capacity, where pCells direct capacity at each device.” But, he added, it’s “surprising” that Perlman doesn’t appear to have made any comparison between pCells and the upcoming, next gen 5G technology, which could end up being its biggest competitor. 5G is expected to start rolling out by 2020.