By Anthony Capkun
November 15, 2012 – Wi-Fi performance is often poor in areas where there are a lot of users, such as airports, but researchers at North Carolina State University have developed new software that expedites data traffic in large-audience Wi-Fi environments, improving data throughput by up to 700%.
Wi-Fi traffic slows down in high-population environments because computer users and the Wi-Fi access point (AP) to which they are connected have to send data back and forth via a single channel.
WiFox, however, monitors the amount of traffic on a Wi-Fi channel and grants an AP priority to send its data when it detects the AP is developing a backlog of data. The amount of priority the AP is given depends on the size of the backlog: the longer the backlog, the higher the priority. In effect, WiFox acts like a traffic cop, keeping the data traffic moving smoothly in both directions.
The research team tested the program on a real Wi-Fi system in their lab, which can handle up to 45 users. They found that the more users on the system, the more the new program improved data throughput performance. Improvements ranged from 400% with about 25 users to 700% when there were around 45 users. This translates to the Wi-Fi system being able to respond to user requests an average of four times faster than a Wi-Fi network that does not use WiFox.
“One of the nice things about this mechanism is that it can be packaged as a software update that can be incorporated into existing Wi-Fi networks,” said Arpit Gupta, a Ph.D. student in computer science at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the work. “WiFox can be incorporated without overhauling a system.”