INNOVATE

One Startup's Grand Plan to Personalize Cell Networks

Steve Perlman has spent the last decade trying to disrupt the cellular network industry. Now, he says, he's finally got it.
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Patience is usually in short supply in the tech industry. Startups these days expect to scale fast and sell even faster.

And yet, the story of Steve Perlman, the guy whose new breakthrough invention could potentially upend the cellular network industry as we know it, proves that some true innovations are worth waiting for.

Perlman is the founder of Artemis Networks, the startup behind a new technology that could personalize cell networks, eradicating the problem of network congestion. Perlman has been diligently developing the technology for the last decade, and on Wednesday, he finally held a demonstration of the finished product, known as the pCell, short for "personal cell." 

According to Businessweek, pCell technology is different from traditional cellular technology, because it doesn't send out a blanket signal to all the devices in a given area. Instead, it locates a single device, and transmits a unique signal to that device. That eliminates the need for people to share a signal, which can burden the network and make it move more slowly. And because the signals don't interfere with one another, as they do with traditional networks, their transmitters can be placed anywhere. "We believe this is the largest increase in capacity in the history of wireless technology," Perlman told Businessweek. "It's like the wireless equivalent of fiber-optic cables."

The company is now working on a pilot project to install its transmitters on 350 buildings in San Francisco. After that, Perlman plans to expand to other congested cities like New York, Chicago, and Dallas. But Perlman's long road to success isn't over quite yet. Because, as Wired reports, the pCell requires devices to be equipped with a special card, Perlman still has to gain acceptance by the major wireless carriers and handset makers in order for the technology to work. 

He may also need to convince investors. So far, Businessweek reports, Perlman, like so many true innovators before him, has had no luck convincing the venture capital community that his technology is more than just a pie-in-the-sky idea. "They invariably bring in experts who say it doesn't really work," he tells Businessweek. "I am showing them a demo, but they remain convinced that it's something else."

Perlman has a long track record in the tech industry, including co-founding WebTV Networks, which he sold to Microsoft for a half a billion dollars in 1997.

IMAGE: Stephen Schiller/Flickr
Last updated: Feb 19, 2014




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