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Professor to develop improved wireless technologies on prestigious German fellowship

For Edmund Yeh, what started a decade ago as an academic exercise to bridge the disciplines of information theory and networking has become part of the framework for modern wireless communications. Now, the Northeastern researcher is continuing that pursuit across the Atlantic to Germany, where for the next three summers he will work to advance Internet and wireless technologies.

Yeh, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, arrived in Munich earlier this month to begin work as a Humboldt Research Fellow, under a prestigious award sponsored by the German government and the Alexander van Humboldt Foundation to bring talented foreign scholars to the country’s top universities and research institutions. Yeh will spend four months in Germany during each of the next three summers as he completes the fellowship.

“I think the most gratifying thing for a researcher is to see that something he works on turns out to be widely used by many people,” said Yeh, who is working at the Technical University of Munich to develop better wireless technologies that improve on the current 4G Long Term Evolution standards — the cutting-edge wireless communications protocol based in part on Yeh’s work on dynamically allocating transmission power and rate in wireless cellular networks.

Yeh is working with Holger Boche, professor at the Institute for Theoretical Information Technology at the Technical University of Munich and a member of the German Academy of Sciences, who nominated him for the prestigious fellowship. The two met about six years ago, when Boche invited Yeh to see how his team of researchers was applying Yeh’s wireless resource allocation algorithms for a large-scale test trial of 4G LTE technology in Berlin.

The new research looks at the future of wireless communications, making calls clearer and improving the transmission of data.

“Of course we’re going to go beyond 4G, so we’re looking at the role of relays in dynamically allocating resources for enhancing cellular network performance,” Yeh said. “Right now you go just one hop, from your phone to the network’s base station. But it turns out everything can be made more efficient when you have a relay to help forward the data along.”

The role of relays is similarly important for the Internet, for which Yeh and his German host will be designing pricing and incentive schemes that induce network cooperation and enhance network performance.

“There is the very interesting question of how the Internet and other networks can be seen as an economy where relays compete with each other through pricing, and carry messages and data for a fee,” Yeh said. “We are investigating how such pricing schemes might be designed to make the network work more efficiently for everyone.”