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Finnish innovation may revolutionise wireless networks

Slow wireless information transfer may be a thing of the past, if the thesis of Taneli Riihonen's award-winning doctoral work holds water. Engineering organisations predict that the Finnish innovation could be worth billions of euros if incorporated into new 5G networks.

Taneli Riihonen puhuu kirja kädessään.
Dr Taneli Riihonen Image: Mariia Riihonen

The doctoral thesis of researcher Taneli Riihonen was awarded the 7,500-euro prize for best engineering thesis of the year on Thursday. The award was given out by the Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland (TEK) and its Swedish counterpart (TFiF). The jury declared that Riihonen's idea may revolutionise global telecommunication and net hundreds of billions of euros.

The researcher himself describes his brainwave as simple.

"All modern IT systems are based on a principle whereby a wireless internet base station sends outgoing signals with one frequency and receives signals with another, unless the sending and receiving occur at different times," Riihonen explains.

In his thesis he found a way to get base stations to both send and receive signals on the same frequency.

"As I was choosing a topic for my thesis, I remember wondering why this hadn't been researched before. All I did was question whether a radio device could send and receive information at the same time," Riihonen says.

Winner doubts quick fortune

In practice using a single frequency could double the capacity of devices to transfer information. The invention is significant but its road to industrial application is only beginning. Fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks could potentially utilise the innovation in the 2020s.

"I'd say that there are some strong prototypes already, and it looks like the technology could be manufactured into a product if a company decided to do so," Riihonen says.

Such an application might be worth huge amounts of money, but the researcher and award-winner says he does not believe it to be a get-rich-quick scheme.

"I won't be getting any royalties and I haven't applied for a patent. Scientific research is, by nature, completely open and available," he says.

Riihonen is currently a visiting scientist at Columbia University in New York and a Postdoctoral Researcher at Aalto University.

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