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Alliance Gives Students a Gateway to the Mobile Technology World

Dec. 6, 2019
This partnership between industry and academia is making it possible for students to have access to modern equipment used for mobile configuration testing.

A previous column discussed how Queensborough Community College (QCC) in Bayside, N.Y., is focused on RF education with its array of industry-standard test equipment and more. Continuing that theme, QCC’s commitment to technology education can be further validated by its partnership with Nokia Bell Labs. Thanks to this alliance, QCC is able to give students access to equipment provided by the company (Fig. 1). On top of that, QCC will even be sending one of its own students to intern at Nokia Bell Labs—quite an accomplishment for a community college.

1. Students at QCC will be able to utilize this equipment intended for mobile testing.

How did the partnership between QCC and Nokia Bell Labs begin in the first place? Enrique Haro, senior CUNY lab technician and adjunct lecturer at QCC, explains, “The partnership between QCC and Nokia Bell Labs began with the help of Joe Amato from RF Alliance and Bryan Walker from JFW Industries. They helped arrange a meeting with Dotti Evans, Carlos Sigas, Craig Polk, and other members of the mobile networks team at Nokia Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J.

“I was able to share the idea of providing technicians with hands-on training using commercial mobile radio equipment found in the field. The QCC-Nokia Connect project was then born with the mission of creating a talented workforce in mobile communications to help companies that use mobile technology compete globally.”

As mentioned, QCC students can utilize equipment provided by Nokia Bell Labs. Specifically, the school was given a handover system along with a mini lab live (MLL) server that controls the handover RF hardware. Figure 2 shows a block diagram of an equivalent handover system from JFW Industries.

2. This is a block diagram of a handover system that corresponds to the system QCC received. (Courtesy of JFW Industries)

“We use GSM and LTE radios as signal sources to monitor handover signals from cell to cell and sector to sector on spectrum analyzers and on LTE user equipment as well,” says Haro. “We are able to change the configuration for the number of cells and sectors. The configuration supports up to 18 student workstations and it is upgradeable. Students can also gain experience with automated testing software, which runs on a UNIX server.”

What does Haro hope students will gain from having access to this equipment? He answers, “I hope that students become passionate about mobile technology by having access to the physical aspects of signal propagation from cell to cell or sector to sector to the handset. I also hope they become familiar with RF components that are not easily found in a classroom. The equipment we were given is the same equipment that’s currently used for mobile configuration testing at Nokia Bell Labs. This initiative opens the door to other mobile-communication technologies.”

Lastly, the partnership is also opening the door for QCC to send one of its students to intern at Nokia Bell Labs. “I’m very excited by this opportunity,” says Haro. “A student from a community college is not the typical candidate for Nokia Bell Labs. Most interns are graduate or Ph.D. students. Such an opportunity will change a student’s life. I believe the student will have a great future by starting his or her specialization early in life ahead of most traditional students. Also, students in general will perform better in class knowing there’s an internship opportunity at one of the greatest telecom research facilities in the world.”

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