Steve Perlman: Nokia Deal Legitimizes Artemis’ pCell Technology

Plan to deploy pCell in major cities is a confirmation that the tech “isn’t cold fusion,” says Artemis founder

2 min read
Steve Perlman: Nokia Deal Legitimizes Artemis’ pCell Technology
Artemis founder Steve Perlman
Photo: Artemis

“It’s our coming out party,” Steve Perlman told me on Friday, speaking under embargo about today’s announcement that his company, Artemis, has signed an agreement with Nokia Networks to work together to deploy Artemis’s pCell technology in major cellular telephone networks around the world.

pCell, first publicly demonstrated in early 2014, “is a complete rewrite of the wireless rulebook,” Perlman said at the time. (Perlman is best known for developing QuickTime at Apple, and as a co-founder of Web TV and founder of motion capture company MOVA. Artemis is a wholly owned subsidiary of Perlman’s startup incubator, Rearden Companies.)

Essentially, Artemis’ approach to wireless communications embraces interference instead of avoiding it, increasing capacity of a network by a factor of 50, the company claims, and preventing the dramatic drop in cellular data rates typically experienced by users in crowded environments. The technology is compatible with current LTE mobile devices, and the effect, Perlman has said, is 5G performance on a 4G network.

Deploying the system requires adding servers to a cellular provider’s data center to handle the heavy computation required and scattering small, dumb, antennas to connect mobile devices back to the servers. The areas covered by the antennas overlap, and device uplink transmissions are picked up by multiple antennas; the software uses those signals to calculate deliberately interfering downlink transmissions that synthesize a tiny personal cell, or pCell, for each device. Each personal cell can use the full spectrum capacity of the network at once, Perlman said.

The agreement between Nokia Networks and Artemis allows Nokia to license Artemis’ technology in order to build it into network equipment, which Nokia will then offer to its customers. An as yet unidentified “tier-one mobile operator” has completed its “technical due diligence” and will begin rolling out the technology for real-world testing early in 2016, according to an Artemis backgrounder.

This trial, Perlman believes, will roll seamlessly into local deployments and, eventually, national rollouts. “Doing a deployment in a city could take just a few months,” Perlman said, “because we don’t need to be on towers, our antennas can be on rooftops or in windows. They don’t need to be aimed, because they are just tossing around interference.” Widespread national deployment in the United States could happen in as soon as a year, he said.

Mobile device users won’t need to do anything to use pCell where it’s available; Perlman indicated that some operators have said they plan to display “5G” on the phone screen for marketing purposes. But otherwise users won’t get any sign that they are on the new system except, he said, dramatically higher data transfer rates, more akin to a home broadband connection than typical cellular network speeds.

Said Nokia Networks CTO Hossein Moiin in a press release: “We are keen to see the potential for pCell in enhancing 4G LTE downlink and uplink capacity given the rapidly growing network demands such as concurrent HD video streaming.”

The Nokia deal means more for Artemis than a typical licensing agreement. pCell took Perlman and his tiny team—the company only has 12 employees—more than ten years to develop, and, when first announced publicly, faced a huge amount of resistance. “I’ve had industry experts tell me the technology envisioned would violate the laws of thermodynamics. I’ve had engineering professors laugh at me. I’ve had hecklers during presentations I’ve made at universities,” Perlman said.

“After a very long journey, this deal is an endorsement,” he says, “a confirmation that this isn’t another cold fusion, that this isn’t just a lab experiment, but rather this is a commercially deployable system.”

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
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Carl De Torres
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When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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