Can I borrow some bandwidth please?

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By Prashant Vadgaonkar (TECHTRONICS)

Published: Sat 15 Nov 2014, 8:18 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 10:18 PM

Cellphones have made life simpler for the common man and has made landline phones almost redundant. But this explosion of mobile usage comes with its own set of limitations, the biggest one being the fact that the paucity of good strong signals leading to call drops and network bottlenecks.

This issue is unlikely to change unless service providers ramp up the infrastructure and transmission towers significantly which in itself is a big challenge. However, there could be a solution in sight to overcome this problem with the advent of a new technology which could solicit bandwidth of devices with strong signals in the immediate vicinity by hooking it over the Wi-Fi.

Austin, Texas based start-up M87 has devised a new software which enables smartphones to leverage a technology which enhances mobile download speeds by borrowing bandwidths from devices in the proximity which it does by simply skipping across other smartphones radios to find out the best possible available connection to a network.

M87 is a company co-founded by CEO David Hampton, Chief Research Officer Vidur Bhargava and CTO Peter Feldman and VP Marketing Matt Hovis who jointly have a vast experience in the faculties of technology, networking, marketing, electrical engineering and computer science. The company emerged from the University of Texas in Austin, which had designed a concept called mesh networking wherein smartphone users could automatically reorient themselves into networks by leveraging their Wi-Fi.

A typical mesh network is a topology in which each node of the mesh transmits and relays data or information to other nodes in the network cluster thus making all the nodes work in a collaborative manner. Thus, in this case, the smartphones or nodes in this mesh would seek devices which have the strongest link to a 3G or LTE network and then route all mobile data through such connections.

To put it simply, if a phone in the network has a weak connection, it could dynamically seek another phone in close proximity,and latch on to its mobile network making all the nodes of the network active and responsive, a concept prevalent in traditional communication networks but not extended to the mobile platform yet. The devices which share their connectivity just share their radio and not the service plans and the data residing on the same.

The company M87 has devised ‘SON’, a product which creates a carrier grade device to device network which enhances coverage and capacity.

The most discernible benefits of such a network would be enhanced download speeds and improved connectivity — especially for handsets or devices which are in areas with weaker signal zones such as basements or parking lots of buildings.

But the larger benefit is the fact that there will be enhanced capacity of the overall mobile network and hence optimal utilisation of available resources without having to beef up the infrastructure. Some of the inherent disadvantages of this is, however, the fact that the device node which shares its connectivity expends valuable battery life in doing so.

M87 which raised $3million in funding this year claims that their mesh networking radio hopping technology can help raise the overall download speeds by a significant 50% and will help end users as well as service providers alike.

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