There’s been a lot of buzz about pCell, a revolutionary new technology that promises to deliver near perfect reception to all smartphone users 24/7. I always greet news about “revolutionary technologies” with a healthy dose of skepticism, both because the media is prone to hyperbole and because truly revolutionary technologies come along once in a blue moon.
The more I read about pCell, however, the more I become convinced that it actually could be a game changer. The technology works by harnessing signal interference — that annoying problem that renders your smartphone useless at cocktail parties and other crowded spaces — for good, constructively leveraging the interference to increase the data capacity of wireless spectrum. The result is no dropped calls or lackluster WiFi no matter how crowded a room may get.
The start-up behind the technology, Artemis, has filed for more than 100 patents (no small feat) and is headed by a Silicon-Valley vet whom I respect, Steve Perlman, the inventor of Apple’s QuickTime and WebTV. Most impressively, the technology is compatible with existing 4G-enabled smartphones and would replace giant cell phone towers, which cost an average of $150,000 to construct and endanger countless human lives in the process, with tiny pWave radios that are as easy to install as an antenna on a roof. (You can read a lot more about the technology here and an interview with Perlman on Venture Beat here.)
Here’s why this excites me: First, if this is real and gets adopted by carriers, that could mean more reliability thanks to ridiculously low latency on your mobile system — we’re talking on the order of five milliseconds or less, whereas we’re seeing 90 to 150 milliseconds right now! This would mean insane audio quality across the mobile space, and with improved audio quality comes better communication, with better communication increased innovation. This is why I founded Voxeet in the first place.
Second, we’ve all heard the statistics about one in four users being on 4G and above by 2017. pCell could disrupt all this and provide much better quality in a shorter timeframe. If Tesla is building superchargers all over the country, I could definitely see pCell deploying their radios quickly and broadly. It partly will depend on how much money the company can raise and how the big wireless carriers respond, since scarce bandwidth is actually a business boon to them, so a disruptive technology like pCell may not be welcomed with open arms.
We will see. I, for one, plan to follow pCell closely and will keep you apprised of any interesting developments. Happy conferencing in the meantime!