Skip to main content

OnLive Founder: We've Broken Shannon's Law

OnLive CEO and founder Steve Perlman claims that he's broken Shannon's Law with what he calls distributed-input-distributed-output (DIDO) technology. Created at another of his startups at parent company Rearden Companies, it's an experimental wireless communications system that promises to pipe a full wireless stream from a nearby cell tower no matter its current load, whether its 100 simultaneous users or a 1000.

"I know that sounds impossible," Perlman admitted to Wired, “but literally if you have a cell that has 100 megabits per second worth of bandwidth in it and you have 100 people, each person gets 100 megabits a second. It’s really pretty amazing; you don’t interfere with anybody else.”

Originally Claude Shannon formulated the concept of channel capacity back in 1948. Since then, it's become known as Shannon's Law (or the Shannon-Hartley theorem) and dictates the "maximum rate at which information can be transmitted over a communications channel of a specified bandwidth in the presence of noise." Supposedly no communications system has zipped passed the theoretical speed limit, but Perlman is now claiming that his DIDO tech currently pushes speeds at ten times the limit. His team even claims that it can push speeds to 100 times the limit, possibly 1000 times faster.

"Everyone we called — you know, like professors and Ph.D students — were like, 'You’re crazy, this'll never work, we all know that wireless doesn’t work that way.'" Perlman said. "We had another person to whom I said, 'Look, everyone’s been telling me this can’t possibly work. I just need to know why."'

Perlman said that he couldn't get anyone to explain why it couldn't work – he even hired a researcher to disprove DIDO who in turn discovered that the OnLive founder and his team stumbled on something no other company had done before... and worked quite well.

But Shivendra Panwar, electrical engineering professor at NYU Polytechnical Institute, said that Shannon's Law was previously trumped thanks to MIMO. "Multiples of the Shannon limit have been achieved already using multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) technology … which is used in the latest WiFi (IEEE 802.11n) and 4G cellular wireless systems," Panwar said. "Of course, further innovation in this area is always possible. The multiples usually discussed, for practical cases, are two, four or eight, not 10 or 100."

Regardless, Perlman said he's already patented the DIDO tech and wants to see it in full use within the next few years, possibly even eliminating wired connections altogether. "I am as confident that [DIDO] is going to revolutionize communications as I’ve ever been confident in anything I’ve ever designed in my career," Perlman boasted. "That doesn’t mean I’m right, but for example I was far less confident that OnLive or MOVA were going to work, and here we are."

Yes, here we are. It's not hard to imagine that Perman's DIDO technology will serve as a backbone for his OnLive service, piping HD PC gaming, movies, web surfing and other "computing" to wireless devices whether they're desktops, laptops on the road or smartphone users wandering the desert. Question is, do we really want everything stored in the cloud?