Startup Artemis Networks has a technology it believes can take wireless networks to the next level. And the company may soon have the opportunity to prove it. Dish Network is making possible the world’s first pCell wireless technology deployment.
Through its wholly-owned subsidiary American H Block Wireless, Dish is planning to hand over some H Block mobile spectrum in San Francisco to Artemis for up to two years for a field test. The only hurdle is FCC approval -- Artemis has to get the commission's OK to move forward with the test. A new approach to wireless, pCell has the potential to be revolutionary.
Indoor testing has already demonstrated it can deliver full-speed mobile data to every mobile device at the same time -- no matter how many users are sharing the same spectrum. The end result: greater capacity than conventional LTE. The most advanced conventional LTE networks average 1.7 bps/Hz in spectral efficiency. By contrast, pCell posts an average of 58 bps/Hz. That's 35 times faster than conventional LTE.
Will it Really Work?
"The Artemis I Hub enables partners to test pCell in indoor and venue scenarios using off-the-shelf LTE devices, such as iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and Android devices,” said Steve Perlman, Artemis founder and CEO.
Here’s how it works: Instead of avoiding interference like conventional wireless technologies, pCell technology actually exploits interference. The technology combines interfering radio waves to create an unshared personal cell, or pCell, for each LTE device. This sets the stage to provide the full wireless capacity to each user at once, even at extremely high user density, according to the company.
We asked Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, for his take on pCell. He told us it’s an interesting idea. Of course, we still don't yet know whether it will work in real world operations, he added.
“If it does work as advertised, it could alleviate some of the pressures on traditional networks like LTE in areas like stadiums where there are large groups in a small area. Of course this is not automatic," he said.
Stretching the Limits
Indeed, customers still have to insert Artemis SIM cards into LTE devices to take advantage of the service -- unless they have devices that carry the new universal SIM. In that case, consumers would choose Artemis as their LTE service on the screens of their devices. The devices would then connect to Artemis pCell service as they would to any LTE service. However, most consumers don’t have devices that carry the universal SIM.
“This is an idea that is needed as we stretch the limits of the way we currently provide wireless data,” Kagan said. “This also inserts another company into the mix -- a company that will charge for its services. We really have more questions than answers today, but it's an interesting new approach.”
Beyond the Dish news, Artemis is also rolling out the Artemis I Hub for venue and indoor trials. The Artemis I Hub provides pCell service through 32 distributed antennas and promises to deliver up to 1.5 Gbps in shared spectrum to off-the-shelf LTE devices, with frequency agility from 600 MHz to 6 GHz. That would enable pCell operation in any mobile band.