GBSense: GHz Bandwidth Sensing from Smart Antennas to Sub-Nyquist Signal Processing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Institute of Communications Systems


Data rate for exchanging mobile information among people, machines and things has been exponentially increasing over the past decade. These data rates are empirically linked to radio spectrum availability. The exorbitant auction prices, e.g., £2.3 Billion for 4G spectrum in the UK, highlights the strength of the competitive market forces but also the scarcity of this precious resource. Driven by the scarcity of spectrum, the UK communications regulator (Ofcom) has made an innovative licence-exempt spectrum sharing on the ultra-high frequency (UHF) TV bands in January 2016, which is the first of its kind worldwide. These spectra of 320MHz bandwidth have enabled the transition from research on cognitive radio theory into practical applications. Furthermore, the millimetre-wave (mm-wave) spectrum on 28GHz, 39GHz, 60GHz with at least 1GHz bandwidth are being considered to be further unitised to cope with high data rate wireless applications and services demanded by users. The satellite and radar applications are co-existing in these mm-wave spectra, and thus any licence-exempt use of this spectra must first ascertain that the spectra to be used is not already in use by the so called "primary users". Therefore, sensing from several hundreds of MHz bandwidth in UHF to GHz bandwidth in mm-wave to gain a clear access to these spectra is critical, while resulting in formidable and complex challenge on the Nyquist-rate analog-to-digital sampling.

This fellowship project proposes a new approach to design GHz bandwidth sensing (GBSense) systems to overcome the bottleneck of Nyquist-rate sampling by developing sub-Nyquist sampling algorithms and repurposing the existing expertise of smart antennas and reconfigurable transmission lines. The GBSense offers new creative and implementable possibilities over a framework of real-time experimental platform without requiring Nyquist-rate sampling. The GBSense gives users access to a flexible hardware platform and application software that enables real-time over the air GHz bandwidth signal sensing, analysis and communication at both sub-6GHz and mm-wave frequency bands. It will also interface with a low-cost computing unit, e.g., Raspberry PI, where sub-Nyquist algorithms are hosted, for enabling better human-computer interaction and advance the current knowledge in sub-Nyquist sampling theory and bring a new set of challenges to both software and hardware engineers. Results will be disseminated to both software and hardware academic researchers, industry and the public through workshops, change-led competitions, open-source plans and outreach activities.

Planned Impact

This fellowship holds benefits for a wide variety of groups beyond academic researchers, both in the UK and internationally:

The industry-driven approach for my fellowship project will help and support the UK to remain an attractive place for businesses to invest in innovative research. In collaboration with national and international companies, e.g., EMS Ltd. (SME in the UK), National Instrument (the UK arm of a multinational company), and Sony Mobile (the Swedish arm of a multinational company), the outcome of this project will provide direct benefit to the industry who is conducting trials of 5G mobile communications which is in line with the Autumn Statement by the UK government (

With my involvement in the Ofcom TV White Space trials and license exempt regulations as part of my recently completed EPSRC First Grant project, this fellowship project will continue to report its outcome to Ofcom, and provide scientific and technical findings for the UK regulator. Ofcom organises regular special interest group meetings where I have been invited to present my research, and meet a number of companies. The datasets collected from the field trials in my fellowship project will directly provide further insights to the existing TV White Space geo-location database approach which is regulated by Ofcom.

In addition to my existing strong links with Ofcom, Nominet, Huawei, Sony, GigaSat, Fair Spectrum, InterDigital, Carson Wireless, EMS Ltd and World Sensing Net, I will also promote the outcome of this fellowship project with other groups and companies such as BBC, Ericsson, Google, Microsoft, BAE Systems, 6harmonics Adaptrum, Arqiva, which have expressed interests in my research.

--Schools and Third Sector:
Research conducted by the IET (Engineering a better world, has shown that there is a growing need to change perceptions of what modern engineering is and what it can offer young people as a career. One of the key findings about why Children like STEM subject is "Science involves experiments, finding how things work, is interesting and fun, creative, practical/hands-on, exciting, involves making things". The proposed experimental GBSense board is interfaced with Raspberry PI in which host the algorithms and control to the RF components. This is not only providing a user-friendly interface for researchers, but also provide an easy programming interface for novice users. I will bring the GBSense sample boards and give school talks to show them "complex science made it easy".

Science and technology teachers, who already use the CS4Fn (Computer Science for Fun) project at QMUL to promote student interest in computing/engineering careers. This fellowship will contribute new articles and activities on digital musical instruments to the project and assist with its dissemination into schools.

In addition to the fellowship's primary research activities, a targeted programme of workshops, competitions, hands-on tutorials, school talks, industry events and release of open-source software and hardware designs and datasets will ensure the fellowship reaches the beneficiaries named above. See Pathways to Impact for full details.


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