30.10.2017

The mobile network of the future repairs itself

PhD Muhammad Zeeshan Asghar leads a Tekes-backed project that researches ways to make future mobile networks more efficient. Research happens to be the Asghar family’s specialty, as all four brothers have donned Finnish doctoral hats.

How much mobile data does your phone use in a given month? A quick Google search must not require much of it; listening to an album on Spotify probably takes a bit more; and what about streaming Netflix?

Not many of us could give a precise number. Studies reveal, however, that the monthly mobile data demand is about 0,5 gigabytes per user.

We constantly find new uses for our phones, and the majority of those tasks happen over the internet. This means that the mobile data demand is only going to increase. Estimates say that future demand will be 30 times larger.

The increased data traffic will require more of mobile networks than what they are currently capable of. Dr. Muhammad Zeeshan Asghar aims to solve this problem. Asghar’s research produces self-organizing solutions that help create more efficient networks.

5G has high demands

Most of us know of 3G and 4G networks, but the super-fast 5G is already well on its way. One of the features of future 5G networks is a zero latency requirement; this means that there can be no delay in e.g. detecting errors in the network.

When it comes to technology, however, errors tend to be inevitable. Self-repairing networks would greatly improve the situation, since humans would no longer be needed to detect and repair errors. These are exactly the kinds of network features that Asghar is developing.

According to Asghar, self-repair and other features of self-organization would decrease network errors and increase network capacity. They would also cut down on costs, since many routine management tasks would no longer require human hands. This would mean that the human role could be shifted to more important matters.

A brief history of mobile networks

  • 1G: Nordic NMT (1981 ->) was the world’s first fully automatic mobile network.
  • 2G: Second-generation networks (1991 ->) like GSM were digital instead of analog. Text messages came into use.
  • 3G: Third-generation networks (2003 ->) had features that helped the spread of mobile internet browsing. Instant messages started to compete with text messages.
  • 4G: Fourth-generation networks (2010 ->) can optimally reach speeds of 300 megabits.


Knowledge mining is the future

So-called knowledge mining is one feature helping networks to self-organize. Knowledge or data mining means that a computer tries to find relevant information from a large amount of available data.

One way of achieving this is by recognizing recurring patterns. By “mining” knowledge in this way, mobile networks can find and fix any problems that arise on their own – and it all happens in a matter of milliseconds.

Asghar’s research calls these new types of networks “Cognitive Self-Organizing Networks”. ‘Cognitive’ indicates that the networks think for themselves.

Asghar’s project continues to the end of 2018. The research results can then be used to benefit the needs of future 5G networks. 5G is expected to become mainstream in the 2020’s.

Doctoral son of doctoral family

Pictured l-r: Dr. Muhammad Imran Asghar (Aalto University), Dr. Muhammad Nadeem Asghar (Åbo Akademi), Dr. Muhammad Zeeshan Asghar (JYU) and Dr. Muhammad Yasir Asghar (Åbo Akademi).

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Asghar received his PhD from the University of Jyväskylä in December 2016. The doctoral degree suited Asghar well; both his father and two of his brothers had previously gotten theirs. This past autumn, the last of the four brothers also got his PhD.

All four Asghar brothers have gotten their doctoral degrees in Finnish universities. The brothers, who hail from Pakistan, have great appreciation for Finland’s education system.

– Finland is defining the future of the world with its digital innovations. We are very happy that we get to be a part of this story, Asghar says.

One of the Asghar brothers has his PhD in the field of engineering and two in medicine. Their father majored in chemistry. The mother worked in medicine.

Asghar gives credit to his parents for always encouraging the children to study hard. At the dinner table, the family often discussed the discoveries of famous scientists. The boys also got to play with their father’s laboratory equipment, which only fuelled their passion for science further.

– The atmosphere at home was always ideal for education. Our parents showed us that honesty and hard work are gateways to success.