Nokia Testing Tech That Promises Faster Mobile Data

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Nokia Networks has announced that it’s going to test out pCell, a new mobile data system which embraces large quantities of mobile devices to actually speed up data provision.

It's the work of Steve Perlman (he was the brains behind the like of QuickTime, WebTV and OnLive) who reckons the pCell technology, which is being initially being commercialised in the US by his Artemis Networks company, could transform the way we slurp up data on the move. Earlier this year, Gizmodo explained how it works:

Where existing cellular networks have to be spaced out to avoid interference, leaving dead zones between them and slow speeds on the edges of each cell tower’s domain, pCell claims to actually take advantage of interference by intelligently overlapping wireless signals, creating localized pockets of signal right at your smartphone’s antenna. As each phone broadcasts its location, the pCell network figures out what combination of signals the pCell antennas need to transmit in order to add up to a stable connection. What’s more, it can apparently do that trick for loads of phones simultaneously, giving each of them a full speed data connection instead of one connection that gets throttled as the network gets crowded.

Speaking to Re/code, Nokia Networks’ Chief Technology Officer Hossein Moiin explained that he’s “seen the demo … in a very controlled environment, but it seems to work... What we’re doing next is demonstrating that it does work. I’m not 100 per cent sold, but I’m a believer”.

The tests, scheduled to take place in the US sometime next year, will trial the technology in congested areas, like indoor stadia, airports and downtown city districts.

In theory, users shouldn’t notice what’s happening, other than a potential speed bump: If all goes to plan Nokia will simply integrate the pCell technology into its systems, but users don’t have to do anything, as the whole thing runs on existing infrastructure. There is a 99-page white paper explaining it, for those wanting to dig deeper.

As Re/code notes, many in the wireless industry remain sceptical as to whether pCell will actually work in the wild, but the collaboration with Nokia Networks ushers in the first series of real tests. We might not have to wait much longer before we find out if Perlman’s claims are accurate. [Re/code]