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A wireless way for rural residents

Shalinee Kishore studies the effectiveness of multi-tier wireless networks in providing remote, underserved geographical areas with Internet and cell phone access.

Kishore, the P.C. Rossin Assistant Professor of electrical and computer engineering, has an NSF Career Award to demonstrate the usefulness of the networks by developing an outreach program with rural Susquehanna County in northeastern Pennsylvania.

In 2005, she won the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor given by the federal government to young scientists and engineers. Kishore was one of 58 PECASE recipients in the U.S. and one of 20 nominated by NSF.

Multi-tier wireless networks contain components (base stations and/or user terminals) whose coverage areas can vary in their order magnitude. The networks Kishore is designing can simultaneously provide ubiquitous low-rate coverage (such as for cell phones) and targeted high-speed Internet access through a network of base stations and user terminals.

Kishore seeks to provide ubiquitous low-rate coverage and targeted high-speed Internet access
Kishore has held workshops in Susquehanna County to explain the principles of wireless communications and to help residents adapt the technology to the county's unique communications needs. She and her students helped residents set up a wi-fi (wireless local area network) at the county's annual Blueberry Festival one year.

Susquehanna County's rugged terrain is not hospitable to the laying of cable and wires. The county lacks adequate cellular coverage and high-speed Internet access as well as reliable 9-1-1 services. Although conditions are improving, the county still lacks localized broadband access, and its existing wireless links are poor. Furthermore, the county's low population density gives providers of Internet services little incentive to install the wires necessary for digital or cable-modem access.

One of Kishore's goals is to determine how to provide the maximum amount of wireless signal coverage with the minimum number of base stations or transmitting and receiving stations. Kishore's undergraduate students are compiling a radio contour map of Susquehanna County. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has funded this radio propagation study through two Pennsylvania Industry and Technology Alliance (PITA) grants.

Her Ph.D. candidates are conducting theoretical research on the design and performance of multi-tier wireless networks.

Kishore is also collaborating with Rosemary Berger, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering, to determine how to design and lay out an optimal network of multi-tier base stations. The two professors aim to design algorithms to evaluate the capacity and coverage offered by a wireless network design. These algorithms will be helpful in implementing the multi-tier design principle not only in Susquehanna County, but in other rural communities as well.

Kishore has also recently received an NSF grant to examine methods for integrating several multi-tier wireless networks. Collaborating with Aylin Yener, associate professor of electrical engineering at Penn State, she will look at how future wireless user terminals can search, locate and adaptively connect to one of potentially several local wireless networks. Kishore's goal in all of these research efforts is to optimize scarce bandwidth and minimize interference caused by reuse of the bandwidth spectrum across tiers. Her approach, she says, represents "a novel and expansive study of spectrally efficient multi-tier architectures."
Shalinee Kishore