UCL industry partnership advances telecommunications
2 May 2014
When global telecommunications company Huawei contacted UCL about a partnership, Polina Bayvel, Professor of Optical Communications and Networks at the UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, knew the benefits could be huge.
Optimising optical fibre transmission
From the vast potential of the web to international telephone calls, the rapid transmission of data over huge distances underpins much of our modern way of life. “The amount of data transmitted increases every day,” said Professor Bayvel. “There are unimaginable applications related to the ability to communicate seamlessly across thousands of kilometres.”
With over 95 per cent of all data transmitted through optical fibres, they are central to long-distance telecommunications. But, said Professor Bayvel, the technology that lies behind optical fibre transmission must evolve constantly to meet growing demands.
That is the key role of her team at UCL. Professor Bayvel explained, “We focus on the challenge of maximising the amount of data that can be transmitted in optical fibres. We’re using new and efficient ways of coding and detecting the information to counteract the material properties of the fibres that result in signal distortion.”
In 2006, Chinese-owned multinational Huawei – now the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world – contacted UCL to propose a partnership.
At the time, said Professor Bayvel, Huawei were not an especially well known manufacturer, and were invisible in the research arena. A partnership with UCL, already a global leader in optical telecommunications and a centre of collaboration with industry and academia, seemed a perfect match.
“Our research is focused on understanding the properties of optical fibres – including how they transmit and distort information – and designing the interaction between optics and electronics to minimise distortions,” said Professor Bayvel.
“Using our research, we’ve worked with Huawei throughout the development of the next generation of telecommunication systems.”
Next generation telecoms
The partnership has bolstered the profile of Huawei in the telecommunications research sphere, as well as providing access to world-leading research consultants. And for Professor Bayvel, who received the UCL Consultants Award 2013 as a result of the collaboration, the partnership has been a success.
“In the Optical Networks Group, we have benefited significantly: firstly, financially; but most critically, strategically,” said Professor Bayvel. “I believe this is a very important relationship. We’re working with world leading players: Huawei is now a top global ICT solutions provider and the biggest Chinese investor in the UK. Consultancy is invaluable because it enables academic expertise to extend into the industrial domain.”
She added, “We’re always looking to maximise the impact of our work, so it’s good to know that our development work is guided and formed in collaboration with one of the world’s industry leaders.”
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UCL Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering www.ee.ucl.ac.uk