Biography of Gerhard Fettweis

Gerhard Fettweis is a pioneering researcher in wireless technology. He has been the Vodafone chair professor at the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden), in Germany, since 1994 and the head of the Barkhausen Institute since 2018. Fettweis has published more than 1,000 academic papers, and his research primarily focuses on wireless transmission and chip design for wireless Internet of Things (IoT) platforms. 

Fettweis coordinates the 5G Lab Germany and two German Research Foundation (DFG) centers at TU Dresden: the Center for Advancing Electronics Dresden (CFAED) and the Highly Adaptive Energy-Efficient Computing (HAEC) research center. He is also a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the German Academy of Science and Engineering (ACATECH). 

He has received multiple IEEE recognitions, as well as the “Ring of Honor,” the highest award from the Institution of German Electrical Engineers (VDE). He cochairs the IEEE 5G Initiative and has helped organized numerous IEEE conferences, most notably as chair of the 2009 International Conference on Communications (ICC) and chair of the 2012 Technology Time Machine (TTM) conference. 

Notably, Fettweis will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming 2020 IEEE 3rd 5G World Forum (5GWF ’20), which will run virtually from September 10 to 12, 2020. 5GWF ’20 aims to bring together experts from industry, academia, and research to exchange their vision for, as well as their achieved advances toward, 5G.

Gerhard Fettweis’s background in engineering

Fettweis obtained his PhD in 1990 from the Rheinish-Westphalian Technical University (RWTH) of Aachen under the supervision of Heinrich Meyr. One of Fettweis’s earliest papers, published by IEEE in 1988 with Meyr, was “Parallel Viterbi Decoding by Breaking the Compare-Select Feedback Bottleneck.” In that paper, the two researchers explored the use of Viterbi decoders in parallel hardware to achieve high data transmission rates. A Viterbi decoder makes use of the Viterbi algorithm, a maximum likelihood means of decoding convolutional codes.

In 1991, Fettweis served as a visiting scientist with the International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation in San Jose, California. While there, he worked on signal processing for disk drives, developing digital cellular chipsets. A year later, he moved on to Total Computer Solutions Inc. (TSCI) in Berkeley, California, where he focused on developing chip designs for mobile phones. 

What Gerhard Fettweis is most known for

As Vodafone chair professor at TU Dresden, Fettweis has led research on wireless transmission and chip design since his appointment in 1994. During his tenure, he has helped establish eleven tech start-ups and secure €500 million in funding for projects in broadband wireless, network performance measurement, satellite communications, IoT solutions, and machine vision for manufacturing. 

Papers Gerhard Fettweis has published

One of Fettweis’s academic works that researchers have regularly cited is his 1993 paper “Multicarrier CDMA in Indoor Wireless Radio Networks,” which introduced the concept of multicarrier code-division multiple access (MC-CDMA), a system for indoor wireless networks that supports multiple users at the same time over the same frequency band.

Another of Fettweis’s regularly cited research papers is “Coordinated Multipoint: Concepts, Performance, and Field Trial Results,” which IEEE Communications Magazine published in 2011. The paper details how cooperative multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) exploits the spatial domain of mobile fading channels, bringing significant performance improvements to wireless communication systems. 

With over 1,200 citations, Fettweis’s paper “Relay-Based Deployment Concepts for Wireless and Mobile Broadband Radio,” published in 2004 in IEEE Communications Magazine, could be his most cited work. The paper covers ways to exploit the benefits of multihop communications via relays, solutions for radio range extension in mobile and wireless broadband cellular networks (trading range for capacity), and solutions to combat shadowing at high radio frequencies. 

Gerhard Fettweis’s current activities

In recent years, Fettweis has been instrumental in helping design and implement 5G networks. As cochair of the IEEE 5G Initiative and a member of the IEEE Communications Society, he has led research and advocated for this revolutionary new cellular network. 

In a January 2017 interview with IEEE Future Networks, Fettweis said, “If you look at 5G from an IEEE perspective, it’s essentially a connectivity infrastructure that touches the innovation of sensors, integrated circuits, communications, computing, big data, and many further areas…it will impact how we build the computer systems of the future to control interconnected objects.” 

In relation to his work on 5G networks, Fettweis coined the phrase “tactile Internet.” In the 2017 interview with IEEE Future Networks, Fettweis explains, “5G will enable us to build infrastructure for remote controls…this means we can have an interaction with virtual environments just as we are used to from tactile interaction with objects around us. [This] means real and virtual objects will be able to interact with a reaction time of one to ten milliseconds to enable a human to control things in a steady state that mimics reality.” 

In a report published in 2014 for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on the tactile Internet, Fettweis and his coauthors describe a vision of the revolutionary advances that extremely low latency in combination with high availability, reliability, and security will achieve via 5G networks. Users will be able to connect a host of devices—from automobiles to household appliances and medical equipment—to an ultrafast network. This technology promises a wide variety of applications in fields ranging from industry automation and transport systems to health care, education, and gaming. 

A visionary for the 5G future

For almost three decades, Gerhard Fettweis has been a leading researcher in wireless technology, helping pioneer key concepts that have led to developments such as emerging 5G cellular networks. His concept of the tactile Internet has helped technology researchers imagine what might be possible with super-fast connection speeds.


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