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Two US carriers are interested in "data signal sharing" technology for 2015

M87's CEO claims that devices can link up over distances up to 50 feet inside a building.

Published onNovember 8, 2014


Imagine walking down the street in your neighborhood and having full 4G LTE connectivity on your device. Also imagine your neighbor walking on the other side of the street with just 1-2 bars of 4G LTE connectivity. Would you share some of your connection/bandwidth to help boost your neighbor’s connection?

Well, get ready as U.S. carriers are testing technology that boosts mobile download speeds by allowing one person to “borrow” bandwidth from other devices nearby. In the beginning of 2015 in Hong Kong, 21Vianet (a Chinese Internet company) will offer technology deemed “mesh networking” that takes someone with a poor data signal and connect that signal to a stronger data signal through a Wi-Fi link.

According to MIT Technology Review, the technology may come to the U.S. after the Hong Kong experiment as two U.S. mobile carriers are currently evaluating mesh networking.

M87, an Austin, Texas startup that came up with this technology claims that download speeds can be increased by 50 percent or more. M87 CEO David Hampton claims that devices can link up over distances up to 50 feet inside a building and up to 180 feet outside a building.

There are some negatives though:

There’s just one catch to this altruistic sharing of bandwidth: a device that donates its connectivity to another uses some of its battery life doing so. M87 CEO David Hampton says the penalty is small, and that a device will likely be configured to only share its connection if it has more than 60 percent of its battery life remaining. (See a video of M87’s software boosting data rates in a Texas mall.) – MIT Tech Review

In order for devices to use the technology, software needs to be installed on both the sending and receiving devices. The software will run in the background and will constantly monitor and look for nearby devices with the same software.

M87 is also allowing wireless carriers to make their own rules with this program. So, while Verizon may only allow for 10% of a battery to be used for borrowing, AT&T may allow for 15%. Carriers can also set their own rules for opting in or out of this program.

M87’s software is currently only available for Android devices.

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