Scientists at Maynooth University have devised a solution to what is a major challenge for cities worldwide – the provision of widespread, free, effective broadband for all their citizens. For more than 10 years, this has been a goal of cities in their drive to support the ‘smart economy’ but it had remained elusive due to technological limitations.
“It’s a very complex problem and a decade of research internationally had failed to provide any real progress. The key was to stop looking for complex solutions, think differently about the issue and come up with simple answers to the issues”, said Professor Doug Leith, Director of the Hamilton Institute at Maynooth University.
The two main barriers to creating successful municipal wireless networks are Interference and Fairness. In order to effectively cover a city, it is necessary to provide many WiFi transmitters in close proximity to each other. However, as all are constantly broadcasting and receiving, these transmissions interfere and collide with each other, resulting in poor quality connections for most users. It has also been very difficult to allocate bandwidth evenly between users, meaning a small number of lucky users monopolise most of the resource available, depending on their location, type of computer and other factors.
Professor Leith and colleagues Ken Duffy and David Malone, developed a new mathematical framework to analyse the functioning and behaviour of radio signals in these situations, and from this new perspective have developed software programs which circumvent the Interference and Fairness issues meaning the WiFi transmitters operate effectively. The software has been proven in trials. The Hamilton Institute, based at Maynooth University is a world leading multi-disciplinary research centre, focused on the bridge between mathematics and other disciplines, including information technology and biology.