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NC State researchers develop technology that boosts WiFi performance by 700%

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Researchers at NC State have developed a new technology that boosts public WiFi performance by up to 700 percent.

WiFi performance is often poor in areas where there are a lot of users, such as airports or shopping malls. However a new software program developed at NC State, called WiFox, claims to boost performance.

What’s the reason for slow public WiFi? Traffic gets slowed down when several users are sending information back and forth to the access point via a single channel. If a large number of users are submitting data requests on that channel, it is more difficult for the access point to quickly send back the data requested.

WiFox, which monitors the amount of traffic on a WiFi channel, grants an access point priority to send its data when it determines a backlog.

According to the release, the amount of priority the access point is given depends on the size of the backlog – the longer the backlog, the higher the priority. In effect, the program acts like a traffic cop, keeping the data traffic moving smoothly in both directions.

“The research team tested the program on a real WiFi system in their lab, which can handle up to 45 users. They found that the more users on the system, the more the new program improved data throughput performance. Improvements ranged from 400 percent with approximately 25 users to 700 percent when there were around 45 users.” – according to the press release from NC State.

“One of the nice things about this mechanism is that it can be packaged as a software update that can be incorporated into existing WiFi networks,” says Arpit Gupta, a Ph.D. student in computer science at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the work. “WiFox can be incorporated without overhauling a system.”

The paper, “WiFox: Scaling WiFi Performance for Large Audience Environments,” will be presented at the ACM CoNEXT 2012 conference being held in Nice, France, Dec. 10-13.

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