A team of researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a software program called WiFox that could improve the throughput of a busy Wi-Fi network by as much as 700 percent.
The reason you usually experience slower Internet on a busy wireless network is that all the devices connected to it are using the same single channel. There is only so much data that one channel can send back and forth at any given moment, which means when everybody in the coffee shop is trying to load a page or send an email at the same time, each person gets a smaller slice of the bandwidth pie and service slows to a crawl.
That’s where the NCSU team comes in. WiFox monitors the network’s congestion and assigns an access point high priority when it accumulates a backlog of data. The bigger the backlog, the higher priority the point becomes. That means the software sets the order of bandwidth use, which yields better performance for the people using the Wi-Fi. In tests funded by the National Science Foundation, NCSU researchers found that WiFox led to performance improvements of 400 percent for a network with 25 users and 700 percent for a network of 45 users. The tests also showed that the Wi-Fi network was able to respond to user requests four times faster on average than a network not using WiFox.
The details about WiFox are still somewhat vague, but researchers will present the software next month at a conference sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery. More information will probably become available after that event. Most likely, the program has an algorithm that will allow it to quickly direct the flow of traffic. It also has no official release date yet, but once WiFox is available, the program should be easy enough to install on a network.
Of course, the effect crowds have on a wireless network depends on how good your router is. Besides, if the Terahertz band investigated earlier this year by Japanese researchers ever becomes commonplace, Wi-Fi could be speedy enough that we won’t need wireless traffic cops.