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Massive MIMO, massive win for Bristol student at NI Engineering Impact Awards

Paul Harris and Steffen Malkowsky using the Massive MIMO system during its recent demonstrationNational Instruments

[l-r] Paul Harris, University of Bristol; Dave Wilson, Vice President - Academic Product Marketing, NI; Dr James Truchard, President, CEO and co -founder, NI; and Steffen Malkowsky, University of LundM Beach, University of Bristol

Press release issued: 3 August 2016

A postgraduate student from the University of Bristol is the joint recipient of five separate awards in recognition of their world record achievement in 5G wireless spectrum efficiency using Massive MIMO. The announcement was made at the 22nd annual NIWeek conference in Austin, Texas, USA, at the National Instruments (NI) Engineering Impact Awards ceremony last night.

Paul Harris, from the University’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Communications together with Steffen Malkowsky, from the University of Lund in Sweden, won NI’s Wireless and Mobile Communications category together with NI’s Engineering Grand Challenges Award, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Edgeline Big Analog Data Award, Powered by Xilinx Award, and the 2016 Customer Application of the Year Award.

In the 2016 NI Engineering Impact Awards - an annual set of awards that showcase extraordinary and innovative projects - over 100 entries were submitted, which were narrowed down to 14 finalists in seven specialisations. From these shortlists the winner was selected in each individual category. A further nine additional awards were presented, including NI Global Student Design Showcase, NI Community’s Choice, HPE Edgeline Big Analog Data, Intel Internet of Things, Powered by Xilinx, Engineering Grand Challenges, Humanitarian, Innovations in STEM and the 2016 Customer Application of the Year.

Paul and Steffen used a 128-antenna massive MIMO testbed to demonstrate simultaneous real-time wireless connectivity to multiple users in the same radio channel through a technique known as spatial multiplexing. In their April submission they described how 12 users could be simultaneously connected using a single 20MHz channel at 3.5GHz. They achieved an aggregate data rate of 1.59 Gbps and set a new world record in wireless spectrum efficiency of 79.4bit/s/Hz.

In May, Bristol and Lund supported 22 simultaneous users and smashed through the 100 bit/s/Hz barrier; eventually setting a new world record of 145.6 bit/s/Hz.

The research team’s achievement with massive MIMO arrays, which are cellular base stations with more than 100 antennas, demonstrates that this technology could deliver ultra-fast data rates to high densities of smartphones and tablets. Massive MIMO is a key technology for 5G, the next generation of wireless access.

The hardware behind this demonstration was provided to the University as part of Bristol Is Open, a joint venture with Bristol City Council that aims to become the world’s first Open Programmable City.  The team used a NI flexible prototyping platform based on LabVIEW system design software and PXI hardware.

Spectrum and power efficient wireless communications are core to the University of Bristol’s Communication Systems & Networks (CSN) Research Group as well as the EPSRC CDT in Communications and the Department of Electrical and Information Technology at Lund University.

Mark Beach, Professor of Radio Systems Engineering in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Manager of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Communications, said: "We're justifiably proud of Paul and Steffen and these awards truly exemplify both their technical contributions to the field of Massive MIMO 5G wireless spectral efficiency and our collaborations with European universities and the NI engineering team in the US.”

Today [Wednesday 3 August], as part of the NIWeek conference, Professor Andrew Nix, Dean of Engineering and Head of the CSN research group, took to the NI stage as part of a keynote presentation entitled ‘5G: What’s the Big Deal?’  This event attracted more than 3,200 innovators, with thousands more watching around the world on a live stream.  

Professor Andrew Nix said: “The demands for mobile data are increasing exponentially and operators are struggling to keep up. In the sub 6GHz bands, Massive MIMO is the 5G technology of choice. By breaking the work spectral efficiency record twice, compared to 4G we’ve managed to demonstrate an order of magnitude increase in spectral efficiency.”

As part of the NI 5G summit, Professor Mark Beach participated in an IEEE Communications Society panel session entitled ‘‘How will record-setting spectral efficiency impact real 5G systems?’  Mark spoke along with fellow international experts in the field showcasing Bristol’s on-going contributions to international 5G R&D.

Further information

About the Communication Systems & Networks (CSN) Group
The CSN Group was formed in 1985 to address the research demands of the fixed and wireless communications sectors.  It combines fundamental academic research with a strong level of industrial application. The Group has well-equipped laboratories with state-of-the-art test and measurement equipment and first-class computational facilities. Recently the Group has joined forces with the University’s High Performance Networks (HPN) Group to form the Smart Internet Lab.

About the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Communications
The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Communications is a state-of-the-art environment for training postgraduates to lead innovative research, future product development and exploitation.

The Centre will help to build UK capability in communications engineering by addressing the skills shortage in the sector. It will focus on Future Communications: People, Power and Performance; while communications technology is the enabler, the Centre recognises that it is people who are the creators, consumers and beneficiaries in terms of its broader applications.

About Lund University
Lund University seeks to be a world-class university that works to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition. The University is ranked as one of the top 100 in the world and tackle complex problems and global challenges and work to ensure that knowledge and innovations benefit society. The University has 42,000 students and 7,680 employees and provides education and research in engineering, science, law, social sciences, economics and management, medicine, humanities, theology, fine art, music and drama.

About National Instruments
Since 1976, NI has made it possible for engineers and scientists to solve the world’s greatest engineering challenges with powerful platform-based systems that accelerate productivity and drive rapid innovation. Customers from a wide variety of industries – from healthcare to automotive and from consumer electronics to particle physics – use NI’s integrated hardware and software platform to improve the world we live in.

LabVIEW, National Instruments, NI and are trademarks of National Instruments. Other product and company names listed are trademarks or trade names of their respective companies.

About Bristol Is Open
How cities work is changing. Bristol Is Open, a joint venture between Bristol City Council and the University of Bristol, is a research infrastructure to explore developments in software, hardware and telecom networks that enable more interaction between people and places and more machine-to-machine communication. The project uses a high performance software defined network as the city operating system, then internet of things platforms and big data analytics feed an emerging number of smart city applications. This is giving people more ability to interact, work and play with the city that they live in, and will help cities address some of the biggest challenges of modern urban life. This is the Open Programmable City.

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