Order of Magnitude Better Wireless Bandwidth by Tweaking TCP?

Researchers at MIT, the University of Porto in Portugal, Harvard University, Caltech, and Technical University of Munich have developed, and have started to license, a new coding approach to TCP that they claim can improve mobile and wireless bandwidth efficiency by an order of magnitude.

Testing the system on Wi-Fi networks at MIT, where two 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 five percent—common on a fast-moving train—the method boosted bandwidth from 0.5 megabits per second to 13.5 megabits per second.

The technology is said to work by transforming the way packets of data are sent. Instead of sending packets, the system sends algebraic equations that describe series of packets. 

So if a packet goes missing, instead of asking the network to resend it, the receiving device can solve for the missing one itself. Since the equations involved are simple and linear, the processing load on a phone, router, or base station is negligible,

The licensing is being done through an MIT/Caltech startup called Code-On Technologies.

As with all new technologies, it isn't clear whether similar results will be seen in the "real world," in commercial, mass deployments. But significant improvements should be expected. 

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