May 11, 2022 - Technology

WebTV founder's decade-long quest to improve wireless

Image: Artemis

For nearly a decade now, veteran technologist Steve Perlman has been trying to sell the world on pCell, a complicated but potentially far speedier way to make use of crowded wireless airwaves.

  • Now, for the first time, Perlman's Artemis has a commercial customer for the technology, with San Jose's SAP Center, home to the San Jose Sharks arena, installing a private pCell network.
  • Artemis says its networks can deliver 10 times as much data compared to traditional cellular networks.

Between the lines: Perlman — a co-founder of WebTV who also did stints at Apple and Microsoft — has won praise for the novel approach, but has struggled to make inroads into the cellular industry. In 2015, Nokia agreed to test the technology but never made it commercially available.

  • With a new wave of technology around 5G and the prospect of more corporate campuses and venues building private wireless networks, Perlman sees a renewed opportunity for the technology, which he has been self-funding through his Rearden incubator.

How it works: It's super complicated — but rather than trying to fight wireless interference, pCell actually relies on the competing signals to help deliver packets of information faster and more efficiently.

  • In its latest iteration, Artemis is using an unlicensed band of spectrum, known as CBRS, as home for its wireless networks.
  • To access the pCell network at SAP Center (and potentially other locations), customers need to use Artemis as their carrier, using an electronic SIM card. While the company is doing what it can to simplify the process, that's still more complicated than connecting to a WiFi network.
  • Artemis also has roaming agreements with national wireless carriers that could allow venues and corporations to offer cell service that uses pCell where available and relies on traditional cell networks for service everywhere else.
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