Research collaboration with mobile tech industry leads to national award

Press Release published by University of Bristol (Communication Systems & Networks Research Group), under Radio Technologies

A University of Bristol research collaboration has been awarded one of the highest accolades in the UK deep tech industry, for a new wireless technology that will transform 4G and 5G global roaming capabilities.

The collaboration between u-blox and Bristol’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering came first in the Research Collaboration category at last night’s (22 November) TechWorks Awards 2018, which celebrate the year’s key electronics innovations, people and companies from across the UK and Ireland.

The Bristol and u-blox collaboration, which began in 2012, won for its R&D project on Reconfigurable Wireless Transceivers for Global Connectivity.

Mark Beach, Professor of Radio Systems Engineering at the University of Bristol and Manager of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Communications, said:

This has been a truly unique collaboration and most rewarding to see it yield such a high calibre outcome. We will continue to develop this exciting technology with our partners.

Given increasing consumer demand for 4G and 5G network access, the collaboration between Bristol and u-blox represents a major step forward in providing the mobile networks of tomorrow.

By bringing together u-blox’s commercial know-how and experience in wireless product design, and Bristol’s expertise in waveform cancellation, the multi-disciplinary team have developed a novel, tuneable, radio architecture for mobile devices. The innovative design facilitates global roaming on 4G and 5G, provides seamless spectrum access across diverse and fragmented frequency ranges, and is the first standards compliant and commercially viable circuit of its type.

Jim Connelly, Director, u-blox Cork, said:

We are thrilled to have won this award and it is a remarkable achievement given the strength of the competition in this category. This has proven to be a very successful collaboration with the University of Bristol and will continue to be so. As u-blox’s Transceiver Centre of Excellence, u-blox Cork is highly focussed on sustained R&D activities in the areas of Cellular, Wi-Fi and IoT. Winning this award reinforces our vision of excellence whilst underlining the importance of collaboration in the research ecosystem.”

The team from the Communication Systems & Networks Group at the University of Bristol (UK) and u-blox Engineering centres in Cambourne (Cambridgeshire, UK) and Cork (Ireland) have jointly addressed this global challenge through collaborative R&D since 2012. PhD sponsorship and mentoring of Leo Laughlin, and later that of Chinqing (Jack) Zhang, under the supervision of Professors Mark Beach and Kevin Morris, and industrial mentoring by John Haine, Kalim Khan and Micí McCullagh, has culminated with a highly novel Frequency Agile Frequency Division Duplexer solution. In addition to the 9 conference and 7 journal publications, including a recent paper in the prestigious IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, a standards compliant laboratory prototype has been designed, built and tested through this collaborative venture.

Leo Laughlin, Research Fellow in the Communication Systems and Networks Group, added:

We are absolutely delighted that our hard work on this project has been recognised with this award. The success of this project was only possible through the close working relationship of this academic/industrial team, which has allowed us to develop and apply novel radio technologies to target a highly specific commercial need.

Additional support for the project came from the University's EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account, which issues strategic awards designed to support knowledge exchange between research organisations and industry partners in R&D.

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