National Instruments, together with the University of Bristol (U.K), Lund University (Sweden) and British Telecom (BT), won the Information, Data & Connectivity category at The Engineer: Collaborate to Innovate (C2I) Awards 2017, with their project: Setting World Records in 5G Wireless Spectral Efficiency using Massive Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO).

Cisco predicts that by 2020, 5.5 billion people will own mobile phones. Although today's 4G networks incorporate the latest technologies and offer users fast mobile data access, 5G is set to offer a step-change in the provisioning of wireless connectivity and network functionality. This will open-up new service offerings, applications and significant business opportunities in a variety of new markets. Massive MIMO is foreseen as one of the key wireless technology enablers for 5G.

C2I Awards

[From left to right] Mark Taylor (General Manager at Desoutter Industrial Tools), Mansoor Hanif (BT), Erik Bengtsson (Lund University), Mark Beach (University of Bristol), Ben Lavasani (NI) and Jon Excell (Editor at The Engineer).

A team of researchers from Lund University and the University of Bristol's EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Communications worked together to address the unprecedented demand for increased data rates, expanded network capacity and improved reliability using this new wireless technology. Under the leadership of Professor Mark Beach, the Universities of Bristol and Lund collaborated with the BT Wireless research team, led by Ian Mings, using NI's Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) Prototyping System.

This allowed the team to rapidly innovate and advance 5G cellular network experimentation transforming the future of wireless communications through massive MIMO techniques. In February 2017, they successfully demonstrated greater than 20 times increases in bandwidth efficiency compared to current 4G cellular technologies, which opens new, record-setting realms of possibility for 5G deployment in sub-6 GHz bands.

The team's collaboration on massive MIMO trials for 5G wireless, also won Application of The Year 2016 at the NI Engineering Impact Awards. "This is exactly why we founded the NI Academic Programme," commented Richard Roberts, NI Marketing Engineer and head-judge of the Engineering Impact Awards. He added, "Accelerating academic innovation and discovery, either in the classroom or the research laboratory, offers unparalleled benefits to industry and our society. The world-leading 5G research carried out by Bristol, Lund and BT is an inspiring example of this."

Speaking of the team's achievements Mark Beach, Professor of Radio Systems Engineering in Bristol's Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Manager of the EPSRC CDT in Communications and a member of the Communication Systems & Networks (CSN) Group, said: "We are truly delighted to receive this award in recognition of this applied research with BT labs on 5G wireless technology using hardware and software platforms from National Instruments. Collaborative activities such as this project help to underpin the training of our postgraduates with the EPSRC CDT in Communications, equipping our postgraduates to become future leaders in this exciting field. This is also an excellent example of academic impact as we progress research with industry to deliver the goals and vision of 5G connectivity."

Fredrik Tufvesson, Professor of Radio Systems at Lund University added: "We are very happy to see how such an extraordinary joint effort has materialized so that we now jointly can demonstrate and investigate systems that people were unsure of whether they at all could be implemented a few years ago."

Representing BT at the awards ceremony, Mansoor Hanif, Director of the Converged Networks Research Lab, said: "BT Labs have a long history of pioneering research and innovation, in collaboration with like-minded industry and academic partners. I am delighted to accept this C2I award on behalf of Ian and his research team, which embodies our collaborative approach and demonstrates our commitment to light the path to the future of the global telecoms industry. Massive MIMO will turbocharge 5G mobile networks, especially in the coverage-driven areas of sub-6GHz 5G where spectrum is likely to be limited."