Coding breakthrough speeds radio data

A radical new way of encoding digital bits into analog waves for transmission can operate several hundred times faster than current modulation/demodulation technologies, according to Singapore inventor Cellonics Pte. Ltd.

The basic scheme came from combining the mathematics associated with Non-Linear Dynamical Systems (NDS) with observations of biological neuron firing to create a completely new way of coding bits into waveforms, the company said at the CommunicAsia exhibition in Singapore on Monday.

If the system proves to be practical in real-world applications, it could alter the economics of data communications, according to Thomas Nolle, a telecommunication analyst at CIMI Inc. in Vorhees, N.J.

“In theory, you can put a lot more intelligence into both fixed and mobile communications,” he said. “As long as what they’re doing (to the waveform) doesn’t go outside the (frequency) channel allocated.”

Third-generation mobile (3G), WLL (wireless local loop) and LMDS (Local Multipoint Distribution Service) services would be obvious beneficiaries of being able to transmit more data per frequency cycle, Nolle said.

“3G and WLL (wireless local loop) are in economic trouble everywhere in the world,” he said. “If this proves to be a way to send much more data down the line that will be significant, and perhaps even revolutionary.”

Existing modulation techniques such as ASK (amplitude shift keying) and FSK (frequency shift keying) need to use hundreds of RF (radio-frequency) cycles to determine the value of a bit. Cellonics’ patented scheme carries one symbol of information per RF cycle, the company said.

“Because ASK and FSK have to use a carrier signal as reference, they need hundreds of cycles before the decoder can decide on the value of a bit,” said Lye Hoeng Fai, Cellonics’ chief executive officer. “In our scheme, there is no concept of a carrier signal.”

NDSes, and the mathematics used to deal with them, encompass areas such as chaos theory and critical systems, including weather forecasting, population growth and the well-known fractal shapes such as the Mandelbrot set.

Mathematical modelling, using NDS, of the patterns of minute pulses of electricity sent out by biological neurons, gave the company’s researchers the idea of using NDS to speed up telecommunication traffic, according to the company.

The result, after some years of research, is a technique whereby the modulator circuit – or the encoding electronics – creates a unique analog RF wave shape, dubbed by Cellonics as the slow wave, for each different data bit.

During demodulation, the shape of the wave is decoded back into the bit. More precisely, the shape of the RF wave is broken down into a pulse consisting of a number of spikes, known as the fast wave. An RF slow wave breaking down into one spike equates to a digital zero, a wave breaking down into two spikes equates to a digital one.

In a handy bonus, the scheme is not limited to digital zeros and ones, but is inherently extendable, or multi-layered. Thus a wave breaking down into three spikes equates to digital two and so on, freeing communications from binary constraints.

Because modulation/demodulation is so fundamental to data communications, the technique can be used in mobile phones, wireless LANs, cable modems, UWB (Ultra Wide Band) wireless, telecommunication backbone networks or military radio, Lye said.

The new technology has several other advantages that stem from the advanced mathematics underlying the scheme, he said.

First, the circuits needed to perform the modulation/demodulation (modem) function are extremely simple, which will keep them small, cheap and with low power requirements. Second, the encoding scheme has proved to be extremely robust when dealing with signal noise. Third, the encoding technology is inherently multi-layer – the output is not restricted to binary digits 0 and 1, but can assume a range of integer values, or symbols. Carrying one symbol per RF cycle therefore means carrying more than one bit per RF cycle.

Cellonics has built several prototypes as it prepares to license the technology to telecommunication equipment vendors. These include a 5.7M bps fixed line system, a 26.7Mbps wireless LAN system and a 5.7Mbps UWB radio system.

“We think this is a revolutionary new technology,” said Lye. “It has the ability to obsolete the modem layer of all communications devices.”

The technology will be more valuable in the wireless sector than in fixed line, where there is already an excess of copper line and fiber capacity, and therefore less need for improved data transmission techniques, according to Nolle.

“This is a technology that favors 3G and LMDS where the projected returns are currently below economical levels,” he said.

Cellonics is offering evaluation licenses of its system at US$200,000 each, a price deliberately kept low, according to Lye.

“We want to open this up so that Cellonics can become a world standard – we are in no position to do this ourselves and so we want to license the technology as widely as possible,” he said. “We want to see Cellonics technology in every communications device in the world.”

Two worldwide patents for the core technology have been granted to Cellonics and the company has submitted 11 more for consideration, Lye said.

CommunicAsia continues through Friday.

Cellonics, in Singapore, can be contacted at