Researchers at Rice University are making great progress on developing technology that could help wireless network operators cost-effectively double throughput on their networks.

“Our solution requires minimal new hardware, both for mobile devices and for networks, which is why we’ve attracted the attention of just about every wireless company in the world,” said Ashutosh Sabbarwal, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice, in an announcement about the researchers’ breakthrough (via

Key to the technology breakthrough is full-duplex communications, which allows people at opposite ends of a call to talk and listen on the same frequency. As Sabbarwal explains in the below video, traditional wireless communications uses separate frequencies for sending and receiving.

As an alternative, the researchers use an approach in which “we send two signals such that they cancel each other at the receiving antenna—the device ears,” Sabbarwal explained. “The canceling effect is purely local, so the other node can still hear what we’re sending.”

Sabbarwal and his research team have developed a solution that leverages the multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas commonly used in wireless devices today along with some “computer tricks” to obtain full-duplex communications, the announcement says. “We’ve  shown that we can add full duplex as an additional mode on existing hardware,” said Sabbarwal. “Device makers love this because real estate inside mobile devices is at a premium, and it means they don’t have to add new hardware that only supports full duplex.”

To help make their research as palatable as possible to network operator skeptics, the Rice University team also has published what Sabbarwal calls a “preliminary theory” to explain why their system works the way it does.

Considering concerns about a potential impending spectrum shortage that have arisen over the last year or so, the Rice University technology could be a welcome breakthrough.

The Rice University research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Roberto Rocca Education Program and Xilinx.

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