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Changing the Face of Wireless

New Rules

In the mid-1990s, Greg Raleigh and V.K. Jones were exploring the vagaries of wireless communications at Stanford University when they discovered a way to turn multipath on its head. As if in some parallel world where up is down and strikes are balls, they discovered that multipath isn't bad. In fact, if your goal is to transmit lots of data over a wireless network at maximum distance, multipath is good. In a discipline defined by Shannon's Law, the mathematical rule governing channel capacity, the rules suddenly changed.

The discovery came to be known as MIMO, short for multiple-input, multiple-output. Rather than using a single radio, MIMO uses multiple transmitters and receivers on the same channel, thereby increasing channel capacity proportionally. Spatial multiplexing was born, aided by advances in digital signal processing. Raleigh and Jones commercialized MIMO at Airgo Networks and began selling their chipsets to home wireless router manufacturers, which had grown wary of product returns from customers who couldn't get a good signal in the upstairs bedroom. Airgo's technology solved those problems and boosted performance.

Competitors, caught off guard by Airgo, created market confusion, mostly by applying the MIMO label to a range of technologies. Nobody owned the acronym, so technically speaking, they weren't lying when they called their systems MIMO, but the benefits of these competitive designs were modest.

The Latest Battleground

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