Could TV Aerial Technology Boost Mobile Broadband?

A British company says it has found a way to make mobile broadband work better even in remote rural locations.

Deltenna has produced a device known as WiBE (Wireless Broadband Enabler) which works much like the better-known MiFi by taking a 3G signal and then passing it on as a Wi-Fi hotspot, meaning the signal can be shared by multiple devices.

The difference is that Deltenna believes its device is far better at picking up a strong signal. That’s because it works in the same way as a TV aerial: it uses a multibeam antenna, identifies the strongest mobile network tower in the region, then focuses its attention on that tower while blocking out the signal from other stations (which would normally interfere with reception). Supposedly this would be enough to get reception even in areas where 3G dongles can’t get a signal.

The logic of how the device functions certainly operates, but whether it works as well as billed is another question. The manufacturer says the maximum possible speed is 7.2Mpbs, but that’s largely hypothetical. More importantly is that it says that its testing in rural areas achieved an average download speed of 2.8MBps. If true, that would certainly be impressive.

Deltenna won’t sell the device directly but will licence the technology to networks and third-party manufacturers. That highlights an obvious drawback of the device: the technology would work a lot better if it could literally take a signal from any nearby tower, but in reality it will be limited to whichever networks the user is subscribed to.

One solution would be for a company to be able to sell the device to the public, charge them for access, and then pass on the money proportionally depending on how much data was taken from each network. Whether network providers would go for that is another question.

Intriguingly Deltenna’s publicity for the device specifically mentions Europe and the US. While that would certainly be a big market, its even more questionable that the device would work well in other countries: “rural” Britain is nowhere near as sparse and isolated as some regions of the US.

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