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A Breakthrough For Speeding Satellite Feeds

By Technology Review

December 30, 2013

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Researchers at the Hamilton Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and MIT's Lincoln Laboratory say they have developed a data-coding technology based on transmission control protocol (TCP) they say could more than double bandwidth on satellite Internet connections, improving service to developing countries and fixing problems with live video feeds.

The gains could be as much as 20-fold in conditions where data losses are exceptionally large, according to the researchers.

When regular TCP is used on wireless networks, some bandwidth gets wasted on back-and-forth traffic to recover the inevitably dropped portions of a signal. The new TCP model sends mathematical functions describing multiple packets so that a receiving device can solve for missing ones without having to regather them.

"You transfer more packets than what you normally would, but you don't have to retransmit," says Inmarsat's Ammar Khan.

The new coding technology has been tested in lab simulations, and in the coming year it is expected to be tested in an environment that emulates the long travel times and typical data losses found on satellites. After those rounds of testing, if the system shows promise, it will be tested on real satellites and considered for commercialization, according to Khan.

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