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Record Attendance at ISART 2018 Shows Importance of Accurate Radio Propagation Modeling

August 07, 2018 by Keith Gremban, Director of the Institute for Telecommunication Sciences

Nearly 170 experts from government, academia, and industry explored the challenges of managing ultra-dense wireless systems at the 17th International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART) July 24-26 in Broomfield, Colo. Panels and presentations discussed the current state of the art and mapped out possible paths forward to the next generation of radio wave propagation models.

The record attendance demonstrated the deep interest in the problem of modeling radio wave propagation. ISART’s purpose is to bring together representatives from different communities with interests or equities in the topic area, and typically attracts technologists, policy makers, and regulators, and industry sectors such as satellite, cellular, and military communications. ISART 2018, “Path Lost: Navigating Propagation Challenges for Ultra-Dense Wireless Systems,” also attracted representatives from the economics and transportation communities, who see a need for tools that accurately predict the functional range of wireless transmissions and their vulnerability to interference.

As the number and density of wireless systems grows, more accurate and higher resolution propagation models are needed to plan deployments and avoid interference. Dramatic improvements in propagation modeling are possible due to the availability of high-resolution terrain data and dense measurement data. However, the symposium pointed out that simple errors or reliance on old assumptions can wreak havoc on measurement data. To address this problem, the symposium concluded with a half-day, hands-on workshop on and demonstrations of how to do accurate propagation measurements.

Radio technology, and understanding radio wave propagation, is critical to our modern lives. Discussions at ISART 2018 focused on moving beyond the foundation of highly trusted models developed in the 20th century. One of the most notable of these is ITM, the Irregular Terrain Model, also referred to as the Longley-Rice model, which was developed in the 1960s. ITM was one of the first models for which ITS developed and disseminated a software implementation.

Notably, one of the major creators of this model was an ITS engineer, Anita Longley, who received a U.S. Department of Commerce Silver Medal for her work at a time when women engineers were few and far between. Today, as evidenced by the seven women speakers at ISART, the field is much more diverse. More voices in the room helps generate the ideas, ingenuity, and creativity that is needed to design systems that can deliver the ubiquity and quality of wireless transmission that end users demand, while protecting the operation of critical government wireless infrastructure.