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Good forecast for mobile phone signals

Scots scientists are one step closer to solving the problem of mobile phone signals breaking up in bad weather.

With the help of a 1.5 tonne, three metre diameter weather radar on top of the University of St Andrews Physics and Astronomy building, the team in the Millimetre Wave Group is measuring the effects of weather on mobile phone base station links. Ultimately, it is hoped that the research will lead to mobile phone signals being redirected when bad weather is on its way.

The project is split into two parts – a measurement system on the roof adjacent to the radar will continuously measure signals from remote transmitters for a period of at least one year while the weather radar will recover information about precipitation in the same direction (type, density, range etc). It is hoped that the results of the two projects can be combined, leading to improved predictions of the atmospheric conditions that affect mobile communications. This knowledge would then yield cellphone networks which are more reliable in bad weather, for example, by re- routing messages or by using steerable ‘smart’ antennas.

The origins of the project date back to 1998 when research fellow Dr Duncan Robertson was participating in a technical working party of the Radiocommunications Agency which is looking at the effects of weather on mobile phone base station links which operate at millimetre wave frequencies.

Dr Robertson said, “During bad weather, these links can break down causing a loss of service to the network which causes major headaches for subscribers and providers. Part of the problem is that the effects of the weather on mm-wave signals is not fully understood, especially during periods of wintry weather. The east of Scotland, particularly around Dundee, has shown a higher than normal incidence of such weather-induced outages and the Radiocommunications Agency were keen to better understand them. Having looked at siting a radar in the Dundee area and failing to find a suitable spot, I suggested our very own roof which benefits from an open view, good accessibility and, of course, links straight into the University’s world-leading School of Physics and Astronomy.”

The system measuring signals from remote transmitters will be operated by Duncan Pryde and Dr Jim Lesurf of the Millimetre Wave Group while the radar is controlled and the data gathered/analysed by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot.

Dr Robertson is now working in the University’s Photonics Innovation Centre which specialises in the commercialisation of laser, photonic and mm-wave technology.

The Radiocommunications Agency is the government body responsible for managing the use of the radio spectrum. It issues licenses to users wishing to operate communications equipment and sponsors fundamental research into radio signal propagation.

For detailed information about the radar campaign see the RAL website:- http://www.scottish.rl.ac.uk/.

For information about the Photonics Innovation Centre visit their website:- http://www.st- and.ac.uk/institutes/pic/.

ENDS

 

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact Gayle Cook on 01334 462529/467227, 07900 050 103 or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: radar/standrews/chg/2nov2001

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