Steve Perlman’s new startup says it has the answer to the mobile capacity crunch

Artemis pCell

Entrepreneur Steve Perlman may have cut his teeth in the tech world with the invention of WebTV — which he sold to Microsoft for $425 million more than a decade ago — but now he’s venturing into the arcane realm of telecom. His new startup Artemis Networks has developed a cellular technology that claims to relieve the scarcity of mobile broadband signals, pumping enormous amounts of speed and capacity into the network in the process.

Steve Perlman

Perlman

Artemis’s technology is called a pCell, which purports to make the mobile network’s biggest problem — interference between signals — work in the network’s favor. While conventional cells are designed to avoid transmitting on each other’s turf, Artemis’s antennas deliberately throw their signals headlong into one another. According to Artemis, instead of creating white noise, which is what would happen in a regular network, that miasma of cross-interference generates tiny 1cm-sized “personal cells” that can be accessed by individual LTE devices.

Each of those pCells can support a normal cell’s worth of capacity, and its network can create multiple pCells within the confines of a regular cell. With that kind of power, Artemis claimed, carriers can build mobile networks that don’t suffer from congestion or dead zones, effectively creating enormous capacity — quite literally — out of thin air.

pCell versus regular cell Artemis

Those are bold claims, and I’m very curious to see if Artemis can back them up. Even if its technology is all that it’s advertised to be, it still has a long path ahead of it before it could be adopted in any commercial networks.

Mobile operators are conservative creatures, relying very heavily on standards-based technology for their networks. That’s both good and bad. It means an iPhone can work on a network in Japan just as it would work on AT&T’s systems. But it also means that operators don’t just toss new technology into their networks without a long, arduous — and often very political — standardization process.

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