Just 10 years ago the NBN was only getting started in Australia – the internet here at the time was a bit of a joke, taking hours if not days to download games like Grand Theft Auto V or minutes to load Netflix content.
Now, with 5G over the horizon, researchers from the Centre for Internet of Things (IoT) and Telecommunications are developing a Wi-Fi system that can travel long distances with low latency and high data transfer speeds, in the lead up to 6G.
The University of Sydney calls it “A boon for the mining industry and internet users everywhere”, even though its intended purpose in conception is solely for underground mining.
Regardless, researchers at the university are saying that this Aussie made Wi-Fi system could be a cost-effective game-changer, especially in delivering wireless internet to hard-to-reach places while keeping data rates high.
“Australia invented Wi-Fi – and how terrific and transformative an invention it has been – except for the fact that it has been plagued by short-range and high latency, rendering it patchy and prone to dropping out,” says Professor Yonghui Li, the leader of the project.
“To deploy these systems in large areas such as underground mines is expensive and often the signal quality is poor.”
Here’s the rundown: Wi-Fi in its current form is mostly developed with consumer applications in mind, with maximum effective ranges of less than 100 metres (in visualising this, think of how quick it takes for your phone to start acting slow on the internet as you get further from your home and router).
This considerably short-range, along with random high latency issues, makes Wi-Fi an unsuitable tool in mission-critical environments, like in mining where a life could be at stake.
This new tech seeks to resolve that issue, keeping latency low while also removing the need for ethernet wiring, allowing a Wi-Fi signal to traverse greater distances than consumer-grade Wi-Fi routers.
The tech designed by the Centre for IoT and Telecommunications can travel several kilometres without experiencing lag or dropping out. Not to outweigh your priorities, fellas, but I’m sure a few gamers would love to get their hands on this tech.
“Our system is the world’s first long-range high-rate Wi-Fi system that is compatible with conventional Wi-Fi and supports both mobile and multiple-access terminals,” Professor Li added.
“It provides a cost-effective solution and opens up new possibilities for real-time surveillance, image and data transmission, all while guaranteeing low latency, which means it doesn’t experience lag and can be used for highly sensitive, mission-critical work.”
This is the kind of thing that will be a focus of 6G technologies. Longer range tech supported by low-latency and high data rates are what current internet systems struggle with – even 5G, Starlink and the fastest NBN technology have latency issues.
It’ll likely also be a cornerstone to emerging tech, like drones and wide-scale automation. Before you think that mesh Wi-Fi could be used for these applications, the Centre for Internet of Things and Telecommunications already thought of that and don’t think it’s up to scratch.
“Existing short-range technologies simply do not meet the requirements of up-and-coming IoT applications,” says Professor Branka Vucetic, the co-lead of the project.
The coverage of large areas is typically achieved by mesh networks – which help to extend the coverage of wireless networks – with a high number of nodes and relay hops, which cause congestion and severe latency,”
This Aussie Wi-Fi System is being manufactured by Roobuck, an Australian Internet of Things company. It’s expected to be available within the next two years.