Professor pioneering world’s fifth-generation wireless technology

Halim Yanikomeroglu imagines a world where lifelike, 3D holograms could sit inconspicuously amongst real people at a meeting – able to cry out and contribute to a conversation in real time.

The concept might sound like something straight out of Star Wars, but since an associate professor from Carleton’s Department of Systems and Computer Engineering is researching technology that will enable ultra high data transfer rates, it might not be too far-fetched.

In partnership with Samsung, the world’s largest electronics company, and Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, Yanikomeroglu is helping to pioneer the futuristic fifth generation of wireless communications (5G) which will offer unprecedented levels of connectivity and speed to users around the world. Though it’s still in the research phase, 5G is expected to be implemented in about 10 to

15 years.

“Telepresence (hologram) applications would require very high rates, much higher than rates available today,” says Yanikomeroglu, adding that Ottawa is still using 3G technology. “Things are going towards very high speed Internet connectivity.”

The research could very well change the way people do everything from surfing the web to sending text messages.

Until recently, cell phones were only used for phone calls. Increasingly, with the rise of the Blackberry and iPhone, portable devices are expected to transfer electronic data from almost anywhere to almost anyone.

“To give service in a coffee shop is easy,” he says, “but if you go further and further away from the base station, the signal becomes weaker and vulnerable.

“The issue is it is not everywhere, it is not ubiquitous.”

While the current strategy is to simply build more base stations, it’s not necessarily a cost-effective solution; especially considering how quickly wireless technology becomes obsolete.

A possible solution being researched for 5G is something called “multi-hop technology.”

Yanikomeroglu explains that usually a wireless device communicates directly with an Internet broadcaster. As the user moves further away from the broadcast point, the connection loses its strength and data transfer slows.

Multi-hop would allow signals to bounce from point-to-point, essentially turning each portable device into a mobile internet broadcasting station.

“You might enable very high rates without spending an enormous amount on infrastructure,” he says.

“While you’re working on a neat idea which is really futuristic, some other unexpected new technology might develop. There is a grey zone between science fiction and research.”

With companies like Samsung constantly looking decades ahead, wireless technology is bound to prosper despite the global recession, says Yanikomeroglu.

The simple fact remains that wireless networks offer access to opportunity, education and health services for some of the world’s most underprivileged people.

“It is really infrastructure like building a road,” says Yanikomeroglu.

“Once you bring a road to a village, things happen – commercial and otherwise.”

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Daniel Reid

By Daniel Reid

Whether it’s scientific breakthroughs, political manoeuvres or loaded technical jargon, Daniel Reid loves to untangle complex ideas to make them accessible to everyone. He is currently an editor at @newsrooms and is a former web editor at @CTVNews and homepage editor at @TheLoopCA. You can argue with him on Twitter at @ahatrack.

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