Researchers at North Caroline State University have come up with a new tool to speed up public Wi-Fi hotspots. The researchers say that WiFox software can improve data throughput by up to 700 percent and could be packaged as an update to existing networks.

Current Wi-Fi hotspots can get annoyingly slow because both users and the Wi-Fi access point are connected via single channel that sends data back and forth, creating a bottleneck when a large number of users submit data requests on that channel. Even if the access point is given permanent high priority, so that it passes over user requests in order to send out its data, users would then have trouble submitting their data requests.

The NC State researchers say WiFox works like a traffic cop, keeping data flowing smoothly in both directions by monitoring the amount of traffic on a Wi-Fi channel and granting an access point priority to send its data when it detects that a backlog is developing. The more people that are using the Wi-Fi, the greater the benefits of the system, because the access point will be given priority based on the size of its backlog.

When testing the Wi-Fi in their lab, whose top capacity is around 45 users, the researchers achieved an improvement to data throughput performance of 400 percent with 25 users. The figure increased to 700 percent when there were around 45 users on the network.

The research will be presented at the ACM CoNEXT 2012 conference in Nice, France, between December 10 and 13.