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WebTV Founder's Super-Fast Wireless Network to Launch in SF

The deal hints at what Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen plans to do with all that wireless spectrum he bought.

Artemis Networks

A new wireless technology that claims exponentially better performance than current mobile networks will be introduced in San Francisco as soon as this year, pending regulatory approval.

Artemis Networks has reached a deal with Dish Networks to lease mobile spectrum in San Francisco for up to two years, clearing the way for the first deployment of a wireless technology known as pCell. It will also be offered in Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers professional football team.

“This is the largest single advance in the history of wireless,” said Artemis founder and CEO Steve Perlman.

This technology claims 35 times the performance of 4G LTE networks, a milestone achieved by embracing the network collisions other wireless technologies seek to avoid, Perlman said. PCell technology combines interfering radio waves in a way that forms tiny virtual cells of connectivity (or a personal cell) for each device.

“The basic wireless service sends waves out, and makes sure they don’t interfere. That’s why the world is divided into cells,” Perlman said. “What we did is say, ‘Look, let everything interfere, but control the way we send those signals … combine them together and make it so the combinations add up to the wave form the phone needs to receive its own private signal.'”

Artemis got its start a decade ago at Rearden Companies’ technology incubator. At the time, Perlman — who founded WebTV, one of the earliest attempts to combine the Internet and TV — was looking for a new way to deliver the wireless Internet, once the existing technologies reached their physical limits.

Perlman acknowledges this kind of exponential performance leap is bound to invite a skeptical, too-good-to-be-true reaction. That’s why he is publishing a 100-plus page white paper explaining the technological advance. He’s also distributing a video showing 16 mobile devices, placed on a single plexiglass table, simultaneously downloading video at top speeds. He showed off the technology at the 2014 Code conference.

For the last year, Artemis has been conducting under-the-radar trials of its pCell technology with Dish in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Austin. It began meeting with the Federal Communications Commission last November to discuss its plans to become a regional mobile carrier, much like U.S. Cellular.

The wireless service would require regulatory approval before it can begin to offer service in San Francisco. That process could take six months or longer, Perlman said.

Dish declined to comment for the story, aside from confirming its subsidiary, American H Block Wireless, would lease some H Block mobile spectrum in San Francisco to Artemis.

However, the deal may begin to answer the nagging questions around what Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen plans to do with all that wireless spectrum he’s amassed over the years. The company spent nearly $10 billion to acquire nearly half of the wireless licenses sold by the FCC in its record-breaking auction.

Dish’s nearest rival, satellite-TV broadcaster DirecTV, would be able to offer its subscribers a package of services that includes high-speed Internet access and mobile service should regulators approve its $48.5 billion acquisition by wireless carrier AT&T.

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