AirHop, Adapting to “Dense” Wireless of the Future, Develops Self-Organizing Networking Software

One of the recurring themes during the international wireless industry’s conference in San Diego last month was the phenomenal surge in mobile data traffic, and how it is leading to constraints and bottlenecks in existing network infrastructure.

As engineers approach the limit in terms of wringing any more efficiencies out of existing radio bands, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs and other experts are talking about the need to increase network “density” by mixing ever-smaller microcells, picocells, and femotcells in closer proximity with standard macrocell towers. Such changes represent a dramatic change in network design, and would have to be part of the industry’s broader move to 4G wireless technologies. But the advent of more dense networks with overlapping cellular configurations also means increased inter-cellular radio interference among the smaller and more powerful cells that would operate closer together—with some operating entirely within the footprint of larger base stations.

It is a problem, though, that Yan Hui saw coming in late 2007 when he left a San Diego-based research & development group operated by Texas Instruments to found AirHop Communications. The San Diego software developer specializes in SON, or self-organizing networking technology, that is intended to simplify and coordinate the operation of 4G wireless networks while minimizing radio interference and maximizing mobile data rates.

“With 4G networks, we know the structure is going to be totally different,” Hui tells me. Where the high end of data rates in existing 3G wireless networks range from 3 megabits per second to 7.2 megabits a second, Hui says 4G technology is promising 100 megabits per second. Hui says, “The industry recognizes that the only way to get to high data rates is with smaller, dense cells” that will require re-using frequencies and managing the inter-cellular interference.

AirHop CEO Yan Hui

AirHop CEO Yan Hui

Hui says the software that AirHop is developing is intended for use in 4G wireless base station hardware, and that the company’s software engineers have been working closely with Texas Instruments and at least three other wireless chipmakers. He describes AirHop’s customers as the component and system venders that make base station equipment for wireless network operators. The company is self-funded, and raised about $1 million in September from individual investors to expand its marketing and business development efforts.

The company, which has 10 employees, estimates its software will reach the market in 2011, although some 4G networks could be deployed earlier. Among AirHop’s selling points is that the multi-tier design of 4G networks will be too complex for conventional installation and set up, so AirHop-equipped cellular hardware will be self-configuring. “It’s called plug and play,” Hui explains. “You turn it on for two hours [while it determines its network requirements] and then it starts working.”

Hui explains that AirHop’s technology also must be capable of … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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