Communications at Queen's is synonymous with the development of the communications industry in Canada. The ECE building is named after Queen's Applied Science graduate Walter Light, who was a CEO of Northern Telecom (now Nortel). The Queen's radio station, CFRC, pioneered here in ECE in the 1920s, and is among the oldest broadcast radio stations in Canada.
Queen's ECE also initiated the Biennial Symposium on Communications in 1962 which is still considered to be Canada's premier conference devoted to communications research. The Communications group has produced five Fellows of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), an international distinction of the highest kind for Electrical and Computer Engineers, limited to 0.05% of its membership. There are only about 10 IEEE Fellows awarded in all ECE-related disciplines in all of Canada per year, and only about 250 per year worldwide. A former Communications group member had won a E.W.R. Steacie Fellowship in 1999, and two former group members were awarded Canada Research Chairs in 2000 and 2002. Unfortunately, these faculty had left Queen's over the past seven years, but have been replaced by some extremely promising junior faculty.
The communications group is actively involved in projects spanning key areas in current and future generation communications systems. Specifically, several members' research interests involve the designing and optimization of next generation broad-band wireless communications systems at both the physical and network layers. Fundamental and state-of-the art theories of communications and statistical/adaptive signal processing are applied to solve many important and critical problems in different areas such as signal detection and estimation, cognitive radio, multiple antenna systems, wireless cooperative diversity networks, mobile WiMAX systems, neural networks, and satellite communications systems. Another important theme of research is to devise methods and techniques for processing audio and visual signals involving theoretical analysis and practical development of algorithms and hardware architectures. A few members are also developing advanced technologies for emerging and future wireless W/M/L/P/HANs, ad hoc networks, sensor networks, medical networks, biologically-inspired networks, nano-scale networks, and industrial networks. In particular, one important topic is to investigate intelligent techniques to maintain high levels of Quality of Service (QoS) and inter-working of heterogeneous wireless networks. Two members have been working on the general area of information theory including the joint source and channel coding, and data compression for noisy channels in a network environment.
In addition to winning top awards, group members collaborate closely with colleagues in the Information Theory area in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, several of whom have ECE degrees, as well as with colleagues in the School of Computing. Many of the group members have contributed to the profession through Editorships in top international journals including IEEE Transactions on Communications, and IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications, as well as the widely circulated IEEE Communications Magazine. One group member is a co-author of the universally known first textbook "Trellis Coded Modulation", an enhancement that first boosted wireline modem speeds and is now found in virtually every piece of data communications equipment.
Queen's was also one of only three founding universities of the Telecommunications Research Institute of Ontario in 1987, which later merged with another agency to form Communications and Information Technology in Ontario in 1998. In addition, Queen's ran major multi-institution multi-industry projects in the Canadian Institute for Telecommunications Research from when it was founded in 1990 until when it was dissolved in 2003. Queen's ECE was the location of Samsung's first R&D venture in Canada in a $600,000 joint venture with Bell Mobility from 2002-2005.
A number of Queen's graduates have gone on to become influential members of the Canadian telecommunication industry at the managerial, VP, and higher level at organizations such as Bell Canada, Bell Mobility, and Nortel. The current president of the Communications Research Centre, the largest Canadian government research laboratory, is the first female graduate of the Ph.D. program at Queen's ECE.