Prof Donal O’Mahony (pictured) is the director of the Centre for Telecommunications Value-chain Research (CTVR), based in Trinity College Dublin.
What do you see as being the role and function of the CTVR?
If we solve the problems we’re working on we will have huge impact both in the multinational partners that we’ve brought in and potentially also with the Irish small to medium-sized enterprise base. That has potential to transform the Irish economy and make it very much technology driven, giving rise to a whole range of start-up companies, energising the ones that exist out there and binding the multinationals more closely to the country.
What projects are you currently working on and what could they lead to?
At the core we have three strands that are focused on what the networks of the future are going to be composed of. At a very high level you can say that the core of the networks are going to be all optical so that means it’s going to be based on optical fibres: wavelength division multiplexing which is putting lots of beams of light into the same fibre simultaneously, [which means] very large amounts of bandwidth. When you get to the edge there’ll be a mixture of copper and also wireless. Now there’s a whole range of different wireless standards — Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WiMax, 3G — and that list is not getting shorter.
There are new standards coming along and then there are clever ways of using existing standards. For example, Wi-Fi has a particular range but if you use beam-forming techniques on the antennas, there’s one system that claims to follow people around with the antenna beam as they move – and also radically extend the range. There’s lots of possibilities like that.
What are you doing to ground the research work?
What we’re trying to do is to get all the researchers in CTVR to have their eye on where their innovations are going to end up in the marketplace. It’s not that we’re doing near-term research; we’re doing fairly blue-sky stuff but we’re selecting our problem set very carefully so that if we do make breakthroughs that they will have the maximum effect on products of the future and by that I mean five or 10 years out.
By Gordon Smith