New pCell Technology Would Eliminate 4G Saturation Issues

Mobile applications are all the rage. Steve Perlman has an idea that would eliminate the performance problem where mobile phone users in congested areas cannot get online, because the cell phone tower is too busy. It is called pCell.


This entrepreneur and engineer invented WebTV and sold it to Microsoft. Now he has a new idea for how to overcome the current limitations of cell towers. Further the technology is compatible with LTE, so it will work with current 4G LTE phones. His new company is Artemis Networks.


The problem with today’s technology is that in places like Midtown Manhattan you sometimes cannot even get onto the cellular network. There is only so much spectrum and only so many antennae in a cell tower. One antennae communicates with one cell phone antennae at a time. The antennae is switching between users all the time, but if the tower runs out of free antennae or spectrum then no one else can connect. Plus if you put too many antennae in a cell phone tower, they create interference with each other; that would affect callers.

Steve told Time magazine, “Instead of avoiding interference,” Perlman explains, “We create interference.”

As it is currently designed, when a 4G phone connects to an antennae, the entire bandwidth of that antennae is handed over to that one user. His idea is to deploy hundreds or thousands of pCell transmitters (He wants to put 10,000 in New York.) to share that bandwidth. Each caller would then connect to pCell transmitters which would be connected to cell phone towers via the same LTE radio waves they already broadcast. Then each cell phone user would get the same bandwidth (transmission speed) as everyone else and there would be no capacity issues.

The Time journalist wrote in his article, “He told me that pCells will inevitably lead to all wireless plans offering unlimited data, and will render Wi-Fi obsolete.”

He told Businessweek, “We believe this is the largest increase in capacity in the history of wireless technology. It’s like the wireless equivalent of fiber-optic cables.”

He told Venture Beat, the pCell technology is “mobile fiber,” and the latency on fiber is 5 ms, and he says he can drive that down to sub-millisecond.

Perlman explains that deploying many pCell transmitters overcomes the problem with the Doppler effect. That is where radio waves stretch when one moves away from the cell tower, as in a moving car. He says the Doppler shift and its limitation is what cell phone companies now use when their calculate where to locate their cell towers.

The pCell reduces this problem by handing off your broadband connection from one pCell to another as a pCell reports Doppler issues. This way you can have fewer cell towers (They cost a lot.) and many pCells. (They cost a lot less.)

The technology was announced so recently that he has no customers yet. He also suggests he would hang onto it and not sell it to any cell phone company saying:

“What I’ve learned the hard way is incumbents, just because of the priorities they have and the triages they have to make, they sometimes would rather sit on a technology that disrupts the established structure, rather than have something deployed.”