January 17, 2014 by David Klein
Millennium Hall will grow 19 and a half feet taller when a new antenna is installed by Drexel’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
The antenna is being built to conduct research on 4G technology and cellular networks for the Global Environment for Network Innovations, a nationwide program that was started in September 2011 and that Drexel joined about a year and a half ago. The GENI project was organized by the National Science Foundation.
Moshe Kam, head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, along with Kapil Dandekar, associate dean of research in the College of Engineering and professor of electrical engineering, directs the GENI research project at Drexel. Kam explained that Drexel is one of many schools across the nation that is involved in the GENI project, including ones as close as Temple University, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and Columbia University, as well as some farther away, such as Stanford University and the University of Colorado.
“The idea is to provide a nationwide laboratory in order to study the joint operation of a cellular network, which will provide advance services under the general title 4G, fourth generation of cellular services,” Kam said. According to Kam, research on this topic has never been conducted at an academic level before.
He continued, “ There are 4G services that have been marketed by different corporations and they are expected to expand, but there is very little that has been done in terms of consistent experimentation in the academic world of this kind of systems. And most of the experience that has been collected about them is company specific and usually quite proprietary because companies are just applying their network and trying to maximize profit.”
However, Kam explained that one of the advantages of being involved with GENI is that, “[All participants] have access to each other’s equipment and therefore are able to organize and execute very large scale experiments.” These experiments will focus on testing performance, data rates, service, security and several other issues.
Kam believes that Drexel’s participation in the project will be enriched by its urban location, in which cellular signals act differently than in more open rural spaces, where many of the other schools are located. Its proximity to fellow GENI school Temple University will also provide unique opportunities to compare and coordinate research.
A final date for the antenna’s construction has not yet been set because the antenna increases the official height of Millennium Hall. Due to the height increase, the University must apply for a variance in order for the building to be properly zoned.
Robert Francis, the vice president of University Facilities, stated that this is a standard process the University deals with during construction projects and he is fully confident that the variance will be granted at their hearing in the coming weeks.
Even without the installed antenna, many electrical engineering students are already involved in the project. According to Kam, much of the measurement equipment can be used without the antenna. He said several students have already completed their senior projects using the existing equipment, with a group of graduate students doing related research.
Kam said that once the antenna is finally built they will immediately have a year and a half’s worth of work ahead of them, including experiments and data analysis that has already been planned. Kam is very excited for the antenna’s prospects.