The College of Engineering has announced the launch of the Wireless Institute at the University of Notre Dame. From the first successful wireless transmission in the United States, which was sent by Professor Jerome Green in 1899 from the Notre Dame campus to Saint Mary’s College, to its current research, the University has a long history of expertise and international recognition in wireless communications and networking technologies.
“Telecommunications and the Internet are among the most important sectors of the national and global economies, and wireless has become pervasive in both of these sectors,” Peter Kilpatrick, the McCloskey Dean of Engineering, said. “These sectors affect society in many areas, including communication, education, health care, entertainment, public safety, military and government. The establishment of the Wireless Institute allows us to leverage our extensive experience, tackle important interdisciplinary problems and broaden our impact on the world.”
J. Nicholas Laneman, associate professor of electrical engineering, will serve as director of the new institute, which engages faculty from the departments of electrical engineering, computer science and engineering, sociology, and finance. A total of 12 faculty, more than 35 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers and two technical and administrative staff share $2 million in annual research funding, 4,000 square feet of laboratory space and $4 million in laboratory equipment.
“One could argue that wireless technologies are relatively mature, having gone through four or five major surges since Green,” says Laneman. “But the pervasiveness of cellular telephony and the mobile Internet is leading to unprecedented opportunities for studying the economic, social, and regulatory aspects of widespread wireless usage, as well as the significant demand for creating new technologies that make more efficient use of the radio spectrum.”
Laneman believes this is the right time to launch the Wireless Institute because the next surge of innovations will require collaborative efforts by scholars in a number of areas. The University’s multidisciplinary team has been tracking wireless industry reports and interacting with government agencies for several years. This interaction has led to two key observations: that the radio spectrum is under tremendous pressure to support the exponential growth of mobile users, applications, and data rates, and that the process of developing new technologies that enable more efficient use of the radio spectrum, and reallocating spectrum from legacy technologies and services to new ones, is extremely complex.
The radio spectrum refers to the finite range of electromagnetic frequencies over which wireless signals travel. It has been regulated by federal agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration since the 1930s. Signaling formats are different for cellular voice and data, radio and television broadcasting, wireless routers for computer networks and other wireless technologies. However, each format requires access to radio frequencies to enable valuable services for end users. Growing demand for commercial wireless is requiring the regulating agencies to evaluate the merits of various wireless technologies and services in order to decide how to allocate (or reallocate) spectrum going forward.