pCell: To Make 'Mobile Internet' Faster Than 4G; Can pCell be the Game Changer in Wireless Technology?

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By Pavithra Rathinavel | March 15, 2014 4:00 PM EST

One of the constant complaints from the mobile phone users is that, they do not have stable or uninterrupted signal strength in their mobile phones, especially when commuting between places. Although, this grievance is taken seriously by cellular companies and they try to address them by resurrecting tower after tower; the growing public demand for better mobile data, especially when streaming videos has been the foundation for brand new technologies coming to the fore, according to Business Insider.

Reuters
A woman talks on her phone as she walks past T-Mobile and Sprint wireless stores in New York in this July 30, 2009 file photo.

Watching music videos, movies and TV reality shows on-the-go is latching-on in a big way, owing to the fact that mobile devices (Smartphones) are getting bigger, sharper and better. This is where the new technology pCell sees the potential growth trajectory.

Artemis is a start-up working on pCell, a new wireless standard that it thinks could leapfrog 4G altogether.

Similar to any promising and potentially disruptive technology, pCell has a ton of hype and uncertainty around it. Here is an outline to pCell for those who want to know more about the technology without having to digest too much of technical and marketing jargon.

"pCell," a.k.a "personal Cell"

Upon deploying a cell tower, cellular network companies produce reception/signal that gets feebler as we go further away from the tower. Also the companies have to make sure there is no white noise (interference) between two receptors, and at the same time they have to be close enough so that one can commute between specific region of coverage from tower to tower and still enjoy a wholesome & uninterrupted service, according to reports.

When so many people gather in one place, the tower nearby will not be able to do justice to every one gathered. Say for example, Melbourne Cricket Ground can accommodate over a 100,000 people, imagine the amount of emphasis on the cellular tower nearby the stadium. Also the people gathered may want to use data in their own different ways. Hence doing justice to so many people in one place is a nightmare with the present wireless technology. This is where pCell steps in.

Artemis, the company responsible for this technology, takes a totally different approach to wireless technology. Instead of positioning a comparatively small number of towers, Artemis wants to deploy a large number of boxes (the size of routers) called "pWaves". The company claims, this approach will provide much better service to much smaller area.

pCell embraces the collision of radio waves, instead of trying to fight interference. By compounding the incoming signals from several of the pWave base stations, each pCell user is provided with their own "personal cell", which ultimately translates to getting full bars of signals at all times. 

Can "pCell" Outperform 4G?

In addition to signal/data permanence and speed, pCell uses a lot less power. According to Business Insider, "pWave radios use a 1-milli watt transmitter to deliver data, compared to the 250 milli watts used by most Wi-Fi radios and even larger amounts of power used by cellular towers".

This in turn, exerts less power on the user's phone; i.e. if the signal is going to be ubiquitous, the phones could use far less power searching for signal - this way, saving the battery drain from happening.

If this is not good enough already, pCell brings substantial reductions in the amount of infrastructure needed to power, sustain & maintain a cell network. 

Cell towers need a humongous fibre infrastructure to distribute bandwidth for all their users, but 'pWaves' can be deployed in only enough locations that each unit can "see" another unit, which translates to - "they can bounce data (communicate) using line-of-sight radio waves for less money", claims Business Insider.

A cellular carrier using pCell can run the software behind it on any powerful Linux Computer System, instead of using custom hardware to process the signals. 

Is pCell a Distant Dream or a Potential Reality in the Near Future?

Artemis CEO Steve Perlman plans to make his first deployment (test) by late 2014 in San Francisco. His company is working with a wireless partner to deploy pWaves to as many as 350 rooftops in the city, which should be more than enough to blanket the city, he claims.

What do you think of this new technology? Please feel free to leave a comment.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
A woman talks on her phone as she walks past T-Mobile and Sprint wireless stores in New York in this July 30, 2009 file photo.
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