One of the biggest obstacles to boosting transmission speed on wireless data networks is the interference caused by buildings. In cities, signals become so scattered that cellular base station antennas often struggle to gather in a complete signal, thus reducing overall performance. Rather than try to overpower the interference problem, Michael Andrews and his team of researchers at Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs decided to embrace it with an ingenious triple antenna that thrives in a chaotic city environment. The new antenna promises to deliver six times the capacity of today’s single-antenna networks and triple that of experimental dual-antenna systems. The technology, which also requires that cell phones include a three-pronged antenna, exploits the fact that radio signals bouncing off buildings arrive at a receiver in different orientations. Each orientation has an electrical and magnetic component, and each of these could be made to carry different information. Wireless equipment vendors are now evaluating the technology for potential use in commercial products. -E. Brown
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