Ashutosh Sabharwal has been selected as the 2018 winner of the IEEE Communications Society's Advances in Communications Award. His award will be presented on May 21 at the IEEE ICC 2018 Awards Ceremony.
Sabharwal, along with his Rice colleagues, discovered and demonstrated a better way for wireless phone companies to double throughput on their networks without adding new cell towers. This breakthrough will allow phones to both "talk" and "listen" simultaneously on the same frequency, which currently requires two frequencies. Sabharwal describes the current technology as two people shouting to each other in an empty stadium. If they yell at the same time, neither will be able to hear what the other is saying, as they will each only hear their own voice. With Sabharwal's "full-duplex" technology, each would be able to effectively "mute" their own voice and only hear what is being said to them.
The theory behind the technology is simple, but the execution would be difficult without new and complex radio hardware. Sabharwal and his colleagues were able to achieve full-duplex using the existing hardware within wireless devices. This is a huge benefit as real estate inside a cell phone is limited. He used an existing antenna technology called MIMO to achieve his goal. Even more amazing, his team was able to achieve asynchronous full-duplex, which basically means that one wireless node can receive while it is transmitting. This is an important step for wireless carriers to increase traffic on their networks.
This innovative breakthrough is a massive step forward in wireless phone technology. Sabharwal believes people my begin seeing full duplex when wireless carriers upgrade to 4.5G or 5G in just a few years.