Intel researchers created a system that allows WiFi signals to be transferred over long distances instead of just a few hundred feet. In their test, the researchers managed to let a WiFi signal travel more than 60 miles (100 kilometers.
"It is regular Wi-Fi hardware but with modified software," he said.
To show it works, Intel has set up a link between its labs in the downtown section of this Bay Area city and the university's Space Science Lab, about 1,200 feet up and about 1.5 miles away on Grizzly Peak Boulevard. The receiver in the office consists of a directional antenna linked to a modified--but otherwise standard--wireless access point.
The system isn't designed for the U.S. or Europe. Instead, it is part of the chip giant's efforts to bring computing technologies to people in emerging markets. The communications infrastructure in most of these countries is fairly anemic and most of it is concentrated in cities. Villages, where a large portion of the population lives, are effectively cut off from the outside world except by car, bus or footpath.
These Wi-Fi antennas, say Brewer and others, could serve as important links in a chain. Villagers would connect to a Wi-Fi antenna in their town or region, which would then relay the signals through several other towers until it came to a fiber link that connected the villager to the Internet.
In a sense, these long-range Wi-Fi antennas would perform the same function as WiMax, a long-range wireless technology that many, including Intel, are experimenting with now. The difference is that a WiMax tower costs about $15,000 to $20,000. The long range Wi-Fi towers might only cost $700 to $800.