Thursday, October 25, 2007

250 Mbps Over Your Telephone Wires!

Dr John Papandriopoulos, an Australian research fellow at the University of Melbourne, won the University's highest academic prize on Tuesday - the Chancellor's Prize for Excellence in the PhD. According to the Australian Herald Sun, Papandriopoulos has "developed technology to make broadband internet up to 200 times (Internet speeds up to 250 megabits per second) faster without having to install expensive fiber optic cables."

This kind of bandwidth is hard to imagine over copper telephone wires and requires a little bit of background to understand. Papandriopoulos' work is based on the work of Stanford Professor John Cioffi, considered by many as the "father of ADSL". Cioffi is currently working in the area of dynamic spectrum management which, according to Wikipedia, is: "a technique being researched to improve DSL performance over ordinary copper phone lines by reducing or eliminating crosstalk between DSL phone lines that are close together."

Crosstalk occurs between conductive wires that are close together. Information, whether voice, video or data is transmitted in the form of electrical signals on copper wire. These signals produce magnetic fields around the wires and these fields are inductively coupled into surrounding wires. Ever drive under a high voltage power line with your AM radio on? If you have then you've likely heard the effects of a coupled field. Telephone wire fields are no where near as strong as high-voltage power transmission fields but, when other wires are close, crosstalk will occur and produce interference on the receiving wire.

Right now there is not a lot of technical information available on Papandriopoulos' work. According to the Herald Sun:

"Dr Papandriopoulos' research, which took a year to complete, uses mathematic modeling to reduce the interference that slows down downloading."

Also, according to Image and Data Manager:

"Dr John actually plans to part ways with the University of Melbourne and is “Currently trying to find a licensee for the intellectual property and I’ve also recently taken a position with a startup in the US, this startup focuses on this area and is run by Stanford Professor who is known as the father of ADSL” he continued, “The professor is John Cioffi who is pushing this whole notion of dynamic spectrum management, which is another way of saying dynamically managing interference.”


"... the technology could be installed directly into existing modems as a software upgrade or be shipped in new modems depending on the ability of the particular modem type. In addition to this there would be a further installation required at the DSLAM in your telephone exchange which would then start cutting down the interference. Don’t expect to see the offering on your local PC store shelves anytime soon though, as Dr John hopes it will be available within 3-4 years."

This will be very interesting to watch.

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