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ECIT is building a five strong team to develop a new mobile network concept

A researcher from The Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) has been awarded a major grant that will allow him to build a five strong team to work on developing a new mobile network concept.

Dr Hien Quoc Ngo, a researcher in the Centre for Wireless Innovation at ECIT, has been awarded a grant of £675,000 by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of their Future Leaders Fellowships scheme.

The grant will allow Dr Ngo to develop a new and revolutionary technology in mobile networks, called “cell-free massive MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output)”, which differs from traditional cellular networks as there are no cells.

The cell-free massive MIMO system is expected to significantly improve data speeds, reliability and connectivity, and therefore, meet the demands of users of future wireless systems.

Speaking about the research, Dr Ngo said: “This grant will allow me to develop a totally new and promising mobile network concept, called cell-free massive MIMO.

“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.”

Dr Ngo added, “I plan to model new methods of signal processing for cell-free massive MIMO before moving to test successful models in the laboratory.”

The Future Leadership Fellowship grant will allow Dr Ngo to build a strong research team, comprising of three postdoctoral researchers and one PhD student, based at ECIT, who will collaborate with world-leading researchers in the field, from both academia and industry, to further improve this new mobile network.

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

“This is an outstanding and rare accomplishment from an early-career researcher and I am delighted that UKRI has recognised this with the award of the Future Leadership Fellowship."

Business Secretary Greg Clark, said: “Dr Ngo’s work at Queen’s University Belfast could transform our mobile communications – and 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.

“That’s why I’m pleased Dr Ngo is one of our 41 first Future Leaders Fellows, helping support his work at the start of his career so he can be among the next generation of prize winners in his field.

“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.”