A team of Columbia University researchers led by an Indian-American engineer has invented a technology that may double radio frequency data capacity.
The new "full-duplex radio integrated circuits" (ICs) can be implemented to enable simultaneous transmission and reception at the same frequency in a wireless radio.
Up to now, this has been thought to be impossible: transmitters and receivers either work at different times or at the same time but at different frequencies.
"This is a game-changer," said associate professor Harish Krishnaswamy who led the team.
"By leveraging our new technology, networks can effectively double the frequency spectrum resources available for devices like smartphones and tablets," Krishnaswamy added.
In the era of Big Data, the current frequency spectrum crisis is one of the biggest challenges researchers are grappling with and it is clear that today's wireless networks will not be able to support tomorrow's data deluge.
Today's standards support 40 different frequency bands, and there is no space left at radio frequencies for future expansion.
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At the same time, the grand challenge of the next-generation 5G network is to increase the data capacity by 1,000 times.
So the ability to have a transmitter and receiver re-use the same frequency has the potential to immediately double the data capacity of today's networks.
Krishnaswamy noted that other research groups and start-up companies have demonstrated the theoretical feasibility of simultaneous transmission and reception at the same frequency, but no one has yet been able to build tiny nano-scale ICs with this capability.
"Our work is the first to demonstrate an IC that can receive and transmit simultaneously," he said.
"Doing this in an IC is critical if we are to have widespread impact and bring this functionality to hand held devices such as cellular hand-sets, mobile devices such as tablets for Wi-Fi, and in cellular and Wi-Fi base stations to support full duplex communications," Krishnaswamy said.
The researchers presented their work at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.