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"Phone Feed" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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Researchers from Rice University, Bell Labs, and Yale have created a multi-antenna technology that could help wireless providers keep pace with the voracious demands of data-hungry smartphones and tablets.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: ringtone--sousa march) Strike up the bandwidth!

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: cartoon chomping, snorting) Voracious--our cute little smartphones and tablets are data-hungry little monsters. In the next five years, wireless demand could be 18 times greater (Sound effect: large monstrous, "feed me!"). Carriers are scrambling to build more wireless base stations and buy rights to more frequencies but there may be a better way. New technology being developed by Rice University, Bell Labs and Yale has already shown that it could increase existing network capacity by more than six times. The key is more antennas the more you have the more users you can serve.

Rice graduate student Clayton Shepard built the 64-antenna working prototype: 'Argos.'

(Sound effect: Clayton Shepard audio) "...and essentially what we're doing is we're sending a physical beam so it's like using all of these antennas to create a very, very directional antenna focused only on the user that you want to send data to. And we can do this simultaneously to many users--so by creating each of these narrow beams we can send to each user without interfering with the other users and this gives us a huge capacity gain."

It will be a while before this technology is commercially available:

"But, it certainly has a great potential of solving the bandwidth crunch for cellular networks in the next five or ten years."

...edging us ever-closer to a world of unlimited, on demand, cat videos. (Sound effect: cat sound)

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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