5Qs on 5G: with The University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo's Amir Keyvan Khandani The University of Waterloo’s 5G research has clearly caught the eye of the Canadian government  after it was given a $521,000 federal grant earlier this month. Inside5G spoke to Dr. Amir Keyvan Khandani, the project leader, who told us that his team are silent leaders in full duplex, and that he doesn’t rate massive MIMO.

What is the main purpose and focus of your 5G activities?
Our purpose is improving throughput with reasonable complexity, facilitating networking (user multiplexing) and improving security. This is academic research, but in Canada, government provides the means and encourages commercialisation (very liberal/generous funding sources).

Massive MIMO is too complicated and not worth the complexity

My team works on Media-based modulation, full-duplex wireless and unbreakable (PHY layer) security. Massive MIMO is too complicated and not worth the complexity. Media-based modulation provides much higher benefits and is significantly simpler.

What kind of things have you achieved?
As mentioned, media-based modulation provides huge gains compared to MIMO (and massive MIMO) with lower complexity. The gains are surprisingly high.

“a functional full-duplex node … which is the best world-wide”

My team has put together a functional full-duplex node with low complexity and small size, which is the best world-wide and we are continually working on it to make it better. We were the first to start working on full-duplex and are ahead of the game, but have been silent for two reasons: 1. full-duplex is largely an implementation issue and therefore the value of publishing theoretical findings is limited (at least in my opinion). 2. Commercialisation objectives limit publications.

Secondly, security is very important to 5G but something new is needed. My team has proposed a security system which is unbreakable (it is impossible to guess) and is simple and practically feasible.

What are the main challenges faced in the development and standardisation of 5G?
For the full-duplex, making full-duplex radios realise the full potential of MIMO has been a challenge. Lack of standards and chip sets means we have to implement the entire system. This is true for any breakthrough work, as many issues such as use of high-order modulation, MIMO, synchronisation,  FEC, ARQ, interface to IP network, etc, which are basic parts of any system, have to be built from scratch to enable verifying any new findings on top.

Are you collaborating with other companies or does government help reduce the need for this?

“we are competing more than collaborating”

We have kept collaboration limited due to competition, and thanks to Canadian government support, so far it has been possible to work without aligning our work with particular companies.  For sure, in due time, global collaboration will be needed and pursued, at this point, we are competing more than collaborating.

“It is very important that governments support this research”

In Canada, we receive funding from both federal and provincial governments. In particular, funding from the Ontario government in the form of Ontario Research Funds is generous and very helpful, and supports both long term academic research as well as commercialisation. In addition, University of Waterloo leave the IP to be entirely owned by the inventor which is helpful in commercialisation activities. It is very important that governments support this research because 5G requires disruptive solutions, and academic units, if funded,  are in a better position (less risky) to address such problems. We see, more and more, solutions are due to academia rather than industry , and this is due to various budget cuts in industrial R&D.

Have you identified any 5G technologies that look of particular interest?
Technologies that have been established as 5G candidates so far (by industry and academia) are not basically very different from what is known and used in 4G. Full-duplex is believed by many to have strong potential, but the area has been (unfortunately) clouded with too many immature claims. Something new and drastically different is needed.

“As far as full-duplex is concerned, we have a prototype that solves many of the shortcomings … It will be soon reported”

We hope, over time, it is realised that media-based modulation and unbreakable security provide, at least the starting point, for such (much needed) disruptions. As far as full-duplex is concerned, we have a prototype that solves many of the shortcomings and is practical for both mobile and base-station. It will be soon reported. So far, publications are limited to several patents available on UPTO web-site.

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