Putting a Stop to Busy Signals

in NEWS, Students

Murat Alanyali
Professor Murat Alanyali

Anyone that has an iPhone has probably blamed AT&T, its sole wireless service provider, for the poor network.

But the problem is more complicated than that, said Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor David Starobinski.

Companies like AT&T buy licensing for radio spectrum, the frequencies used to conduct everything from texting to phone calls. These purchases are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and currently only one company has access to a particular chunk of spectrum.

Ashraf Al Daoud (CE '10)
Ashraf Al Daoud (PhD '10)

Though different chunks of spectrum can be unused at any given time, the restricted access to them ultimately leads to problems like the busy signals many iPhone users encounter when trying to make a call.

Ashraf Al Daoud (PhD’10), ECE Professor Murat Alanyali and Starobinski recently looked at the problem in “Reservation Policies for Revenue Maximization from Secondary Spectrum Access in Cellular Networks,” a piece that won the Best Paper Award in June at the WiOpt 2010 Symposium in France. Read their paper.

“It’s not an easy problem to solve since there are many technical, economical and legal issues,” said Starobinski. “It continues to be a truly interdisciplinary project.”

During their research, Al Daoud, Alanyali and Starobinski looked at the possibility of multiple companies sharing their spectrums in a real-time market, similar to a stock market.

David Starobinski
Professor David Starobinski

According to Al Daoud, there is a global trend right now for governments to give spectrum license holders more flexibility in their property rights.

“While this approach is expected to improve spectrum utilization, its success hinges on giving the license holders the economic incentive to expand their subscriber pools while welcoming secondary users in their networks,” said Al Daoud.

In their paper, Al Daoud, Alanyali and Starobinski came up with guidelines that would allow companies to gain the benefits of sharing spectra – thus enabling more frequencies to be utilized at once.

Both Alanyali and Starobinski said that it was a pleasure to work with Al Daoud, who Alanyali described as “hardworking” and “resourceful.”

“I am confident that the awards he has received so far are only the beginning of an impressive career,” added Alanyali.

Alanyali and Starobinski continue to study the issue while Al Daoud researches as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Waterloo, an experience he feels very prepared for thanks to his education at Boston University.

“Working with Professors Alanyali and Starobinski has provided me with excellent ideas and rewarding directions,” said Al Daoud. “There is no doubt that my BU education has given me the edge to do advanced research inspired by practical needs.”

-Rachel Harrington (rachelah@bu.edu)