“Multi-user beamforming” key to fattening wireless data pipe

“Extreme MU-MIMO” may sound like the hero of a new anime series, but it just might rescue your smartphone from the data limits that capacity-challenged service providers increasingly seek to impose on consumers by allowing a single base station to serve many users simultaneously

Researchers from Rice and Yale universities working with Bell Labs have developed a prototype base station utilizing multi-user multiple-input multiple-output (MU-MIMO) technology that uses multiple antennas and multi-user beamforming (MUBF) to communicate with several users at once via directional beams.

The Argos prototype deploys 64 antennas to serve 15 simultaneous users, but the researches say that the technology can be scaled up to enable base stations with hundreds or even thousands of antennas.  Such “Extreme MU-MIMO” technology would allow a single base station to serve hundreds of users without any need for additional spectrum.   The narrow directional beams also save energy, with power requirements dropping in proportion to the number of antennas deployed.

The Argos group presented its findings at the Association for Computing Machinery’s MobiCom 2012 wireless research conference in Istanbul last week.

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