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Peer-to-Peer Traffic Dominates

Summaries of Research and Inventions from Science and Technology Journals

3 min read

PROGRESS: Summaries of Research and Inventions from Science and Technology Journals

Using a newly designed monitoring system, researchers at Sprint Corp., in Overland Park, Kan., recently investigated how the company's data backbone is being used and found that during 2001 and 2002, peer-to-peer applications, such as Gnutella, generated up to 80 percent of the traffic on some of its links. The researchers also learned that streaming media accounted at times for a quarter of the traffic on some links but did not compare with peer-to-peer or Web traffic, which swung between 11 and 90 percent. More generally, they found that most of the links are working at less than 50 percent of capacity and that the data transmission times are dominated by the speed of light rather than by any traffic-related delays. Put succinctly, Sprint's network has plenty of backbone: you can't blame it if your voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) software experiences delays.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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