Towards Programming the Radio Environment with Large Arrays of Inexpensive Antennas


Zhuqi Li, Yaxiong Xie, and Longfei Shangguan, Princeton University; Rotman Ivan Zelaya, Yale University; Jeremy Gummeson, UMass Amherst; Wenjun Hu, Yale University; Kyle Jamieson, Princeton University


Conventional thinking treats the wireless channel as a given constraint. Therefore, wireless network designs to date center on the problem of the endpoint optimization that best utilizes the channel, for example, via rate and power control at the transmitter or sophisticated decoding mechanisms at the receiver. We instead explore whether it is possible to reconfigure the environment itself to facilitate wireless communication. In this work, we instrument the environment with a large array of inexpensive antennas (LAIA) and design algorithms to configure them in real time. Our system achieves this level of programmability through rapid adjustments of an on-board phase shifter in each LAIA device. We design a channel decomposition algorithm to quickly estimate the wireless channel due to the environment alone, which leads us to a process to align the phases of the array elements. Variations of our core algorithm can then optimize wireless channels on the fly for single- and multi-antenna links, as well as nearby networks operating on adjacent frequency bands. We design and deploy a 36-element passive array in a real indoor home environment. Experiments with this prototype show that, by reconfiguring the wireless environment, we can achieve a 24% TCP throughput improvement on average and a median improvement of 51.4% in Shannon capacity over the baseline single-antenna links. Over the baseline multi-antenna links, LAIA achieves an improvement of 12.23% to 18.95% in Shannon capacity.

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@inproceedings {227641,
author = {Zhuqi Li and Yaxiong Xie and Longfei Shangguan and Rotman Ivan Zelaya and Jeremy Gummeson and Wenjun Hu and Kyle Jamieson},
title = {Towards Programming the Radio Environment with Large Arrays of Inexpensive Antennas},
booktitle = {16th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI 19)},
year = {2019},
isbn = {978-1-931971-49-2},
address = {Boston, MA},
pages = {285--300},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = feb

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