INTEL PR has ramped up several press releases on the way Intel plans to extend wifi coverage. They could have asked some of the commentators here for the press fodder because little in the Intel item is new to anyone in the realm of community wifi. Broadband Reports says that Intel researchers report how they can send WiFi signals up to 100 kilometers using standard equipment, compared to the few hundred feet they can normally travel. Their system uses directional antennas and special software to do the trick, and it's intended to be used in developing nations to provide remote areas with internet access.
Cisco already has wireless antenna kits that beam eight miles along line of sight. At Tipperary Institute, we have used Cisco hubs that can boost and turn the signal up to antenna located 19 miles away. I have set up a wireless environment that turns at right angles on street corners. We used no Intel kit in those configurations.
Typically, WiFi signals are sent over a circular area, with the router in the middle. It's possible to focus the signal, using a directional antenna, in a particular direction, and use power just to send the signal that way, instead of all around. That's not really any secret or breakthrough, but it sounds like the Intel researchers' real innovation is in creating a system that electrically steers the antennas on both ends of the connection. They might have figured this out 20 years ago.
The advance here isn't in creating a potential competitor to WiMAX or other mobile broadband technologies; the innovation is in creating a solution to the problem of aligning directional antennas, which could potentially be applied to other wireless technologies beyond WiFi.
Carlos -- "Intel Gives Wifi a big boost"