Chaos as mobile calls jam

December 17, 1999

Staffordshire University researchers are about to throw the phone system into chaos - for the sake of getting a better service.

Engineers in the school of engineering and advanced technology are to apply chaos theory, the branch of mathematics used to explain chaotic systems, to unravel the cordless and confused world of mobile phones.

The university has been awarded a Pounds 100,875 grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to investigate ways to help telephone networks cope with mounting numbers of calls without expanding the infrastructure.

Chaos theory attempts to explain why seemingly simple systems, such as weather and economics, are still so unpredictable. Chaos experts try to find patterns and laws where to non-experts there appears to be only chaos.

A team of researchers, led by Rolando Carrasco, will be using the complex theory to boost the performance of mobile telecommunications systems rather than expanding the networks.

Professor Carrasco said: "The increased use of mobile telephones, ISDN lines, satellite communications, cable networks and other digital communications systems is starting to put an immense strain on existing networks. It is not that these networks are laid on one another, but they speak different digital 'languages' and the complexity grows as you try to move information from one to another.

"We will be using chaos theory in the same way that transport experts have looked at traffic flows to reduce congestion on roads. But instead of following the movement of cars, we are monitoring the flow of information."

The way the team will make sense of digital data is to turn the flow of figures into graphics and images and look at the patterns to see what is happening.

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