Hien Ngo 2 scaled

Queen’s University to develop new mobile network concept

A researcher at Queen’s University Belfast has received a major grant to develop a new mobile network concept that could transform the way we live and work.

Dr Hien Quoc Ngo, who works in the Institute of Electronics, Communications + Information Technology, has been awarded £675,000 by UK Research + Innovation under the Future Leaders Fellowships scheme.

With the funding, Dr Ngo plans to form a five-person team to develop a new mobile networking technology called cell-free massive MIMO, which stands for multiple-input, multiple-output.

Unlike traditional cellular networks, these systems require no cells and are widely expected to improve data speeds, reliability and connectivity. The cell-free system is aimed at meeting the demands of users of future wireless systems.

Over the coming years, such technology will form an important part of smart city and smart home systems. It also comes as the first commercial 5G networks are starting to launch.

Dr Ngo said: “To date, mobile networks have been based on a cellular configuration where the land area is divided into cells, and each is served by a base station.

“However, cellular networks are running out of capacity and do not render themselves suitable for future wireless systems which will have to manage billions of devices at the same time, with many applications including machine-type communications; Internet of Things; Internet of Everything; and Smart Everything – it’s time for new technology.”

The Internet of Things is the network of physical devices and objects, such as wearables, home appliances, smart cities, remote monitoring equipment and retail solutions, connected to the internet and that communicate with each other. Meanwhile, IoE is a much broader term that was coined by Cisco in 2013. It stands for Internet of Everything and is about bringing together people, process, data and things to “make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before”.

The Future Leadership Fellowship grant will allow Dr Ngo to build a research team comprised of three postdoctoral researchers and one PhD student.

Based at ECIT, they’ll work with world-leading researchers and organisations in this field to develop and improve this technology.

Dr Ngo added that the team plans to model new methods of signal processing for cell-free massive MIMO before moving to test successful models in the laboratory.

Professor Dimitrios Nikolopoulos, Director of ECIT, said: “Dr Ngo’s pioneering research in MIMO has set the agenda for a mobile communications architecture that is about to become part of our everyday lives any time now.”

Business secretary Greg Clark believes that Ngo’s work at Queen’s University Belfast could transform our mobile communications and the home.

He said: “As our homes become smarter and rely on more devices, this will become key to people accessing vital services, as well as keeping in touch.

“This is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy – securing our world-leading position in science by investing in ground-breaking research so it can deliver the highly-skilled jobs of the future.”

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