Theoretische Grundlagen der Kommunikationstechnik

Overview of the Area of Study

Communication networks are perhaps the most pervasive and ubiquitous infrastructure of our time. Billions of people around the world access information, conduct business, share experiences, and stay in touch with each other through the Internet. In turn, the preferred way in which people access the Internet is through wireless networks. Today, the number of connected wireless devices roughly equals the number of humans on the planet. In the grand vision of the "Internet of Things", the number of connected devices is forecasted to grow significantly larger. These devices will include machine-to-machine communication, and smart infrastructure devices such as cars, smart appliances, and environmental and body sensors. 

History at a glance: The theoretical foundations of this astonishing development find their origin in the seminal paper by Claude E. Shannon, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication", published in 1948 (see also here). This remarkable work is usually identified with the birth of the modern information age. Astonishingly, at a time when  telephone networks were analog and based on electromechanical circuit switching, and radio was reduced to analog broadcasting, Shannon deployed the fundamental concepts of information measures (entropy, mutual information), and their operational significance, in terms of the fundamental limits of data compression, channel capacity, and source coding. 

Since Shannon's work, the fields of modern digital communications, channel coding, data networks, source coding, and wireless/cellular communications have developed enormously. Large and successful companies, such as Qualcomm, Ericsson, Nokia, Alcatel Lucent, Siemens, Huawei, Broadcom, Intel, Samsung, Cisco, and many others have been setting technology trends and defining standards such as TCP/IP, IEEE 802.11, IEEE 802.16, GSM, IS-95, and the more recent 3GPP family of standards (e.g., 3G WCDMA, Ev-Do, LTE/LTE-A). Perhaps the most striking fact is that Shannon's theoretical conclusion – that information is essentially "discrete" (i.e., digital), such that any source can be reduced to a common currency (bits) which can be freely and reliably exchanged through a variety of physical transmission and storage media – has become a fact of everyday life. We enjoy and experience this every time we send a Tweet, stream a video on YouTube, or make a Skype call. 

Becoming a Successful Telecommunication Engineer

Consider the development path of wireless network technology over the past 25 years, as sketched in Figure 1. In order to master this field, a successful engineer must possess a balanced mixture of knowledge, spanning theoretical and applied areas, including:

  • Foundations (probability, random processes and statistics, signals and systems, linear algebra, convex and combinatorial optimization)
  • Specific theoretical knowledge (information theory, coding theory, statistical signal processing, communication theory)
  • Specific applied knowledge (network standards, physical layer technologies such as CDMA, OFDM, MIMO)
  • Project-based programming/simulation skills (modeling of communication systems, proficiency in the use of simulation tools such as Matlab and C/C++ ad-hoc programming, testbed implementation on software-defined radio platforms)