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A Step Back in History

Wireless @ Virginia Tech as a group developed in 2006 to encompass a broader umbrella of research in newly emerging fields in the wireless industry. We originally were the "MPRG" group, ( Mobile & Portable Radio Group), which was founded by Dr. Theodore "Ted" Rappaport. Our very first symposium was in 1991, and was called the "The Virginia Tech Symposium on Wireless Personal Communications, sponsored by MPRG". The symposium was held concurrently with the Industrial Affiliates Board Meeting which is still the case today.

In 1991, we featured the leaders of cellular communications. In particular, Barry Bertiger of Motorola provided a fascinating overview of the Iridium low-earth-orbit satellite-based cellular system that was to be deployed in the mid 1990's. We had 175 attendees from 22 states, and nine countries. The IEEE actually filmed the symposium for distribution in the fall of 1991.

The Wireless Summer School was not added as a feature until 2005. That first year focused on offering short courses on cutting edge technology and featured tutorials on Simulation of Wireless Communications by our own Dr. William Tranter, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, our outgoing Director of Wireless @ Virginia Tech, Dr. Jeffrey Reed on Software Defined Cognitive Radios, and a young Dr. R. Michael Buehrer, current Director of Wireless @ Virginia Tech who delivered a tutorial on Ultra Wideband Systems. Dr. Buehrer also produced a tutorial on Space-Time Processing.

We thought it would be fun and interesting to take a look back at some of the symposium agendas to see how the field of wireless technology has developed, who our keynote speakers were, and what subjects were covered. A listing of papers/presentations for those years are also provided if we were able to locate the records. We dug deep into our files and came up with some very interesting information from our previous newsletter, The Propagator. Click on the year below to catch a synopsis of the evolution of Wireless @ Virginia Tech and follow the links to read select pages of The Propagator for even more information!


In our very first symposium, the main topic of conversation was cellular communications. Even in 1991, there was already discussion about the difficulties of allocating radio spectrum for new services, in this case the questions centered around personal communications networks and FCC regulatory policies. The Propagator that year produced two issues, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, that covered the introduction of the new MPRG Symposium. The Fall issue recapped the events. 1991 Propagator Spring edition & 1991 Fall Recap Edition
2. In 1992, the Wireless Personal Communications featured Evolutions in Personal Communications with a keynote speaker named Al Gross, the inventer of the Walkie-talkie! and Mr. Bob Blake who provided a synopsis of British Telecom's Quest for Cordless Access in the UK.1992 AgendaPropagator and Tutorial List.
3. The third Wireless Symposium was held June 9 - 11, 1993. The keynote speakers that year were Roger Madden, President of the IEEE Vehicular Technology Society and Marty Cooper of Arraycomm, and included a panel discussion of the researchers that influenced the world of cellular telephones circa 1993. Other notable speakers included Dr. Stephen Cleary, from Virginia Medical College who spoke on the Biological Effects of Radio Energy. 1993 AgendaPropagator and Tutorial List
4. 1994 was the year the economic impact of wireless technology was explored in depth. The overall theme of the symposium addressed in particular the defense industry conversion of technology to commercial markets. Our keynote speaker that year was Charlie Plott from Caltech and Byron Marchant of the FCC. Other contributors included the Small Business Administration and MCI Wireless.Propagator & Tutorial List
5. 1995 was the 5th anniversary of the Wireless Symposium and featured in depth coverage of the emerging world of Intelligent Transportation Systems. The panel sessions that year were hosted by Jim Chadwick of MITRE Corporation, Graham Smith from MobileVison, Wayne Stargardt with Pinpoint Communications, Jonathan Riso of Southwestern Bell Mobile Systems and Jorge Pereira with GTE. The emphasis of this panel was on Automatic Vehicle Monitoring systems. One interesting item of note about 1995's symposium, was the publication of a book by Kluwer Academic Press called Wireless Personal Communications: The Evolution of Personal Communication Systems, that was based on the '95 symposium. A subsequent book was published in 1996. 1995 Propagator andTutorial List
6. The focus of the 1996 symposium was the emerging adaptive antenna technologies that included a panel discussion on Thursday night. The panel highlighted the perspectives of both manufacturers and service providers. Tours of MPRG's lab facilities were provided to showcase the work of Virginia Tech researchers in the field of propagation, adaptive antennas, signal processing and wireless system design, a feature that we will also be offering this upcoming year, 2015. We hope you will take advantage of the tours to become familiar with the exciting new work that Virginia Tech researchers are pioneering. 1996 was also the year we welcomed a very special staff member namedHilda Reynolds who is now celebrating her 18th year with Wireless @ Virginia Tech. 1996 Propagator and Tutorial List and Hilda's original Welcome to Wireless!
7. The 7th symposium in 1997 was centered around the real-world, first hand trials, tribulations and challenges of all of the new technology, with particular attention to the challenges of wireless E-911. Also addressed at this symposium was what was needed to help educate wireless engineers. The symposium also featured exhibitors from around the world showcasing their innovative applications of new wireless technologies.1997 Agenda, Propagator and Tutorial List
8. The 8th symposium on Wireless Personal Communications led off with a wonderful panel session called Third Generation Wireless: Why Bother? Followed by Broadband Access: Will Wire Win? The focus of the symposium that year was advancements in technology for smart antennas, and diversity, propagation, interference cancellations, equalization and modulation, and coding and networks. 1998 Propagator and Tutorial List.
9. The 9th Symposium was held on June 2 - 4, 1999. It was the end of a decade and the start of a new millennium. MPRG offered for the first time a short course on the fundamentals of wireless. A technical presentation was offered called Wireless Research for the Twenty-First Century. The session kicked off an international effort for wireless research and personnel exchange which was covered on page 6 of The Propagator. This was the year that the annual reception to close out the symposium was moved from Friday afternoons to Thursday evening so that all symposium participants could attend. 1999 Propagator and Tutorial List.
10. The 10th Annual Symposium placed a heavy emphasis on the newly emerging "Bluetooth" technology. The tutorial on Bluetooth was led by Dr. Dennis Sweeney and Max Robert and was delivered to a standing room only crowd. Also onboard that year was former Congressman Rick Boucher, the leading telecommunications policy maker at the time. Congressman Boucher served as our keynote speaker addressing among other things, "imminent approval of legislation to make verifiable electronic signatures legally binding".2000 Photo Gallery, & Propagator
11. In 2001, the country was feeling the effects of an "economic downturn" and the primary issue addressed during the symposium was the slower than anticipated embrace of 3G technology and production of personal communication products utilizing 3G. This was also the first symposium that began to fully address the networking issues and challenges of 3G systems for large scale wireless data communications. Our most popular speaker at the symposium was our Thursday luncheon guest speaker, Virginia Tech's very own Civil War professor, Dr. James "Bud" Robertson, who had just released a new biography on General "Stonewall" Jackson. 2001 Agenda and Propagator
12. The symposium that year was held from June 5-7, 2002 and focused heavily on Software Radios. Dr. Jeff Reed held a full day tutorial and a second half-day tutorial on that subject. Our current director, Dr. R. Michael Buehrer also offered a tutorial on Radio Resource Management for 3G Systems. The Propagator that year did not address the symposium, instead it concentrated on the ongoing research in software defined radio, but we are providing the 2002 Agenda.
13. In 2003, Wireless and the Software Defined Radio Forum (now called WinnForum),hosted a joint workshop on advances in smart antennas for software radios. The keynote speaker that year was Marc Goldberg of ArrayComm, Inc., one of the pioneers in adaptive antenna technology. 2003 Agenda and 2003 Propagator
14. 2004 saw the an emphasis on exploring new standards for the wireless industry. Tutorials were conducted by Stein Lunby, who was the leading researcher for Qualcomm, and held tutorials on 3G infrastructure, and "Push-to_Talk Technologies". At this point, we were still the Virginia Tech/MPRG Symposium on Wireless Personal Communications, but we were about to change. 2004 Agenda
15. 2005 marked the first year MPRG offered a summer school in conjunction with the annual symposium. Short courses were offered on a variety of topics, including sensor networks, and the economic impact of wireless in the past and opportunities it would provide in the future. The tutorials were delivered by text book authors in their respective areas. 2005 Agenda and 2005 Propagator and Propagator review of the 1st Annual Summer School, 2005.
16. 2006 was the last year that the symposium was held under the MPRG name. In 2007, we officially became Wireless @ Virginia Tech under the direction of our founding director Dr. Jeff Reed. It was also the first year that the symposium was held at the newly built Inn @ Virginia Tech. In 2006, we held our 2nd Summer School, and focused our tutorials on software radios, and software communications architecture. We also held our first tutorial on game theory. In 2006, the Propagator was discontinued. We are providing a list of tutorialsand the 2006 Agenda.
17. The keynote speaker in 2007 was PrismTech's Jerry Bickle who delivered the concepts of OMG (Object Management Group) software radio specification based upon the current revisions. Our own Dr. Carl Dietrich followed up on that presentation with a hands on tutorial on Software Communications Architecture. Specific emphasis was placed on Cognitive Radio which had been defined as the newly emerging technology of the time. 2007 Agenda
18. The 2008 Symposium placed a heavy focus on understanding and explaining the new standards. Dr. Jeff Reed and Dr. James Neel approached that subject, but other tutorials involved explaining the field of Cognitive Radio. One of our keynote speakers that year was Dr. Joseph Mitola, whose dissertation introduced the idea of cognitive radios. 2008 Agenda & 2008 Recap
19. 2009 was the fifth anniversary of the Wireless Summer School. Cognitive radios and networks were the most sought after tutorials, and Dr. Monsiha Ghosh and Dr. Jianfeng Wang of Phillips Research provided an industry perspective on the subject as well as a tutorial on cognitive radio usage of the TV spectrum. 2009 Agenda & 2009 Recap
20. 2010 was the 20th Anniversary of the symposium. That year our keynote speaker was Dr. Bruce Fette from DARPA. Friday morning of that year featured quite a few speakers from the National Security and Intelligence fields. There were several tutorials still on cognitive radios and networks, and the first mention of LTE. 2010 Agenda & 2010 Recap
21. In 2011, our keynote speakers were Dr. Andrew Clegg of the National Science Foundation, who provided insight into “Enhancing Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS): A New National Science Foundation Initiative;” Mr. Russell Housley of Vigil Security, LLC & Chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), speaking on “Emerging Wireless Internet Standards;” and Dr. K. J. Ray Liu of the University of Maryland, with a presentation on “Cognitive Radio Games.” Tutorials that year ranged from networking challenges to the newly emerging field of "cloud computing". And at the party that year, our new Director of Wireless, Dr. R. Michael Buehrer joined forces with Dr. Charles Clancy and Dr. Robert McGwier for a new rendition of "Wild Thing" by The Troggs.
22. In 2012, the symposium focused on policy changes in the area of dynamic spectrum access which continues to be on the forefront of today's research. Also featured that year was the return of Dr. Ted Rappaport who was the "founding father" of MPRG, the predecessor of the current Wireless @ Virginia Tech, who discussed his work in high-frequency communications as a potential solution to the scarcity of spectrum currently being experienced by today’s wireless innovators.
23. In 2013, the keynote speakers were Mr. Aneesh Chopra, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Mr. Russ McGuire, Sprint, and Mr. Thomas C. Power, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. One of the tutorials in particular that year that was of keen interest was a technical overview of Redhawk, by Pablo (Max) Robert, Chief Technical Officer of Geon Technologies.
24. This year's symposium featured keynote speakers, Mr. Fred Moorefield, Director, Spectrum Policy and Programs, from the Department of Defense Chief Information Office. Over the last several years, policy has in fact been one of the dominant topics of interest at the symposium, and this year was no exception. Mr. Moorefield's keynote address was followed by a tutorial on "Spectrum Policy & Regulation for Innovative Wireless Engineers" by Dr. Michael Marcus - Marcus Spectrum Solutions LLC. Our other keynote speakers this year focused on spectrum access, Dr. Preston Marshall from Google who provided "An Industry Perspective on Spectrum Strategy" and Mr. Lynn Claudy - Senior Vice President of Technology from the National Association of Broadcasters who provided us with "The Broadcasters' Perspective on Spectrum Use Now and in the Future".
25. The 2015 Symposium and Summer School was held May 27, 28, 29, at the Inn at Virginia Tech. This year we celebrated our 25th Anniversary, with a look back at the past and a new vision going forward. This year our incoming Director, Dr. R. Michael Buehrer, created a new Mission for the Wireless @ Virginia Tech Research Group. Our new mission is to:
  • * Do pioneering research that impacts next generations wireless networks and technologies
  • * Produce students who continue to make advances in wireless networks and technologies as members of government, industry, and academia
  • * Serve the wireless industry and government through rapid response research, consulting, symposia and short courses
  • * Bring together interested outside parties and group members who have synergistic technical needs and expertise
With 25 years of solid history behind us, Wireless @ Virginia Tech has a well deserved reputation for being one of the premier wireless research groups in the country (not to mention one of the largest). We look forward to seeing you in June of 2016!