Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Advanced Communications Engineering (RF Technology and Telecommunications) - MSc

2018

This MSc programme targets the needs of a rapidly evolving communications engineering sector and provides an industrially relevant and exciting qualification in the latest advanced communications technologies being employed and developed.

2018

Overview

Study the techniques and technologies that enable advanced communications provision through fixed and wireless/mobile networks, and that modernise the core networks to provide ultra-high bit-rates and multi-service support.The Advanced Communications Engineering (RF Technology and Telecommunications) MSc at Kent is well-supported by companies and research establishments in the UK and overseas.

The programme reflects the latest issues and developments in the telecommunications industry delivering high quality systems level education and training. Gain deep knowledge of next generation wireless communication systems including antenna technology, components and systems, and fibre optic and converged access networks.

About the School of Engineering and Digital Arts

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts successfully combines modern engineering and technology with the exciting field of digital media. The School was established over 40 years ago and has developed a top-quality teaching and research base, receiving excellent ratings in both research and teaching assessments.

The School undertakes high-quality research that has had significant national and international impact, and our expertise allows us to respond rapidly to new developments. Our 30 academic staff and over 130 postgraduate students and research staff provide an ideal focus to effectively support a high level of research activity. We have a thriving student population studying for postgraduate degrees in a friendly and supportive teaching and research environment.

We have research funding from the Research Councils UK, European research programmes, industrial and commercial companies and government agencies including the Ministry of Defence. Our Electronic Systems Design Centre and Digital Media Hub provide training and consultancy for a wide range of companies. Many of our research projects are collaborative, and we have well-developed links with institutions worldwide.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Engineering and Digital Arts was ranked 21st in the UK for research intensity.

An impressive 98% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of research of international excellence.

Course structure

The programme is delivered by internationally leading researchers in our Communications group. They provide first-hand experience of cutting-edge research into next-generation wireless communication systems, antenna technology, components and systems, and fibre optic and converged access networks. 

The excellent research track record of the members of the Communications research group enables us to provide true research-led teaching, and superior expertise and facilities for projects. Our research teams also have many contacts in industry and research establishments and can provide project placement opportunities and advice.

In recent years, the Communications group has forged particularly strong links with EE (Everything Everywhere), JDSU UK Ltd., Rohde & Schwarz and 3.

Dr Nathan Gomes
MSc Programme Chair

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Modules may include Credits

Local Area Networks

Ethernet technologies and standards; switched Ethernet and STP; virtual LANs; wireless LANs and WiFi. Personal area network technologies and standards for the Internet of Things: Bluetooth, ZigBee, LoWPAN.

IP Networks

IP Networks: IPv4 and IPv6 addressing, operation; routing protocols; Mobile IP; transport layer (TCP/UDP) and application layer protocols, including real-time protocols.

Network security and encryption mechanisms

IPSec and other security protocols. Network performance analysis, queuing theory, and network simulation.

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Lecture Syllabus

Digital Communication

Optimal receivers design and their performances of QPSK, MSK and QAM; Signal design for bandlimited channels; Carrier and symbol synchronization; Multichannel and multicarrier communications (e.g. OFDM); Filterbank based Muticarrier Transmission (FBMC); Spread spectrum and CDMA signals for digital communications; Multiuser communications; multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology.

Information Theory and Coding

Channel capacity and coding. Block codes, convolutional codes and Turbo codes.

Coursework

Digital Signals and Communication

Six examples classes.

Information Theory and Coding

Five examples classes.

Simulink

Two 4-hour laboratory sessions introducing Simulink and its application to digital communications. An assessed assignment on a digital communications link.

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Introduction to Matlab

Introduces the basics of the Matlab and Simulink programme environment and prepares the students for the Introduction to Matlab workshops.

Introductiion to the MSc Projects

Overall timetable and plan for the individual and group projects

Writing Better Technical English

As scientists and engineers, an ability to communicate information clearly through the written word is central to our professional activities. Whether we are publishing our research in an academic journal, writing a report for our employers or just summarising a piece of work for our records, the way in which we write will directly influence the quality and value of what we do.

In these lectures we will look at what determines the quality of formal writing, and how we can maximise the impact and clarity of what we write. Whether English is our native language or a second language, it is important critically to examine how we write if we are to express what we have to say in the best possible way. We will begin by examining the benefits of making more effort in our writing, and we will survey some of the common errors which often occur, showing how these can have an effect not just on the ease with which our work can be understood and absorbed but also on the precise meaning of what we say. We will explore some strategies for improving writing quality, and will consider some guidelines for the development of longer-term writing skills. We will explore a number of examples of "good" and "bad" writing, and everyone will have an

opportunity to take part in some simple exercises.

Literature Review: Techniques and Tools

Surveys using networked electronic information sources, on-line databases, inter-library loan facilities, private communications, etc. Identification of a technical area worthy of research, definition of the state- of -the-art in a given field, definition of the research project, and research proposals. Patent search.

Research Project Management

Time management. Resources management. Project management software (MS Project). Use of logbooks. Data management. Data security. Team working skills.

Research Publications

Structure, content and procedures. Project reports and theses. Journal and conference papers. Technical presentations. Use of references. Writing up of abstract, introduction and conclusions. Submission, refereeing and amendments. Effective use of figures, drawings and tables. MS WORD, ENDNOTE and LATEX.

Presentations and Research Results

Objectives and structure. Audience analysis. Rehearsal and delivery. Design of visual aids. Use of computerized projection facilities. Multi-media approach. Poster design and poster presentation. Handling questions.

Interllectual Property Rights

Patents, patent rights and know-how. Copyright and copying. Design rights and registered designs. Research contracts and agreements. Confidentiality agreement.

Research Ethics

Ethics in engineering research. Research supervision. Modelling and simulation versus real experimental work. Processing and presentation of experimental data. Obfuscation in writing up research papers.

Systems Engineering

Understanding systems definitions, the context of projects and levels of systems engineering. System boundaries. Capturing requirements. System design methods. Validation and verification.

Team Dynamics

Project management phases, Tucker's team building model. People, psychological types. Influencing others and managing people. Leadership styles

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The module is broken down into three courses:

RF and Microwave Design,

Microwave Propagation for Mobile Systems,

Antennas for Mobile and Wireless Systems.

RF AND MICROWAVE DESIGN

Review of Transmission line theory and network analysis: Telegraphist's equations, characteristic impedance, propagation constant. Definition and properties of S-, Z- and Y-parameters. Practical examples.

Cables, Circuit transmission lines and waveguides: RF cables and connectors. Circuit transmission lines: Microstrip, CPW and stripline, design equations. Rectangular waveguide and advanced transmission lines.

Passive components and matching: Resistors, capacitors and inductors at high frequency. The transmission line as circuit component. Lumped element matching, Stubs, quarter wave and tapered matching techniques. Practical Examples. Couplers & power dividers: Properties of dividers and couplers; the T junction and Wilkinson divider; directional couplers and hybrids. Practical design

MICROWAVE PROPAGATION FOR MOBILE SYSTEMS

Dynamic Range, gain compression, 3rd order intercept and intermodulation. Noise sources and noise figure in cascaded systems. Radiowave propagation for the wireless channel. Pathloss effects of buildings, terrain and foliage. Key propagation effects in narrowband and wideband systems (spatial variation, angle of arrival, delay spread and diffraction). Fast fading and shadow loss.

ANTENNAS for MOBILE and WIRELESS SYSTEMS

Antenna gain, directivity, radiation patterns, polarization and bandwidth. Free space and plane earth EM wave propagation and Link budgets. Use of spectrum for wireless systems.

CAD modelling and design of small dipoles and loops, resonant dipoles and balanced/unbalanced transitions, patch and slot antennas, antenna matching, mutually coupled and phased arrays, reflector antennas, mobile, circularly polarised, wide bandwidth and RFID operation and antennas.

4 hour simulation lab on Antenna simulation design.

4 hour simulation lab on RF and Microwave Design.

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Lecture Syllabus

Optical Communications

Optical fibre propagation, attenuation, dispersion including polarization mode dispersion, scattering and nonlinear effects. Sources and source characteristics (spectrum, noise, modulation response): LEDs and Laser Diodes. External modulators. Detectors. Receiver analysis. Optical fibre link budget analyses. Optically amplified systems. WDM systems and component requirements. Polarization and spatial multiplexing. Visible light communications. Microwave photonic and radio over fibre systems. Ultra-high-bit-rate coherent systems.

Satellite Communication Systems

Introduction to satellite communication systems and sub-systems, orbits, radio propagation, satellite antennas, noise figure analysis, examples

Satellite link design and analysis, modulation and multiple access, earth station technology, satellite payloads, nonlinear HPA effects, examples

Coursework

One 8-hour optical communications lab

One assignment on satellite communication systems

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An Introduction to reconfigurable systems. PLDs, PLAs, FPGAs. Fine grain architectures, Coarse grain architectures, Heterogeneous device Architectures. Case studies. Configuration of FPGA's. Run-time configuration, partial configuration, dynamic reconfiguration. Partitioning systems onto a reconfigurable fabric. Synthesis tools. Timing issues. Verification and Test strategies.

An introduction to Hardware Description Languages. VHDL will be used to illustrate a typical HDL (but this may change to or include Verilog in future). The lectures will define the architectural aspects of a VHDL : entity, architecture, process, package, types, operators, libraries, hierarchy, test benches and synthesisable VHDL. Workshops and laboratories will be used to illustrate how VHDL code is synthesised on to physical hardware devices and a number of challenging practical design examples will be used to illustrate the process.

Basic computer arithmetic and its implementation on reconfigurable logic architectures. Fixed-point and Floating point number representations. The IEEE-754 FP standard. Redundant Number Systems. Residue Number Systems. Methods for Addition and Subtraction. Fast adder architectures. Multi-operand addition. Multiplication: Multiplier architectures; Constant coefficient multipliers; Distributed arithmetic; LUT methods. Special methods: division, square root, the CORDIC algorithm. High-throughput arithmetic. Low-power arithmetic.

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This module focuses on the basic principles of modern computer architecture and how they are mapped onto modern (32-bit) microcontrollers. The course uses the ARM processor core as an exemplar of a modern processor architecture that is now ubiquitous in embedded systems. The course will cover classic topics in architecture (CPU and ALU structure, Instruction sets, memory and memory) and performance metrics for evaluating the relative performance of different architectures such as RISC vs CISC and also VLIW, SIMD, MIMD, ASSP and DSP devices.

The NXP 1786 (mbed) microcontroller is used as an example microcontroller development platform and industry standard IDE's from Keil/IAR are used to program, test and debug them. The course includes a comprehensive presentation of typical microcontroller peripherals: ADCs and DACs, Timers and Input Capture, communication using IIC, SPI, UART. Displays. Interrupts and Interrupt Service Routines (ISRs).

The course also provides an introduction to the C and C++ programming languages and their use with microcontroller based systems. This material will include: Variables, data-types and arithmetic expressions. Strings, Loops, Arrays. Functions, Structures, Pointers, bit operators. The pre-processor. I/O operations in C. Debugging Programs. Object-Oriented Programming. The Standard C Library.

Issues such as software testing and testing strategies are discussed. Compiling and downloading code onto the mbed using commercial Integrated Development Environments such as Keil® and IAR®. GNU based toolchains for Microcontroller development.

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Lecture Syllabus

Overview of wireless communications; path loss, shadowing, and fading models; capacity of wireless channels; cellular concept; handoff; adjacent cell interference; adaptive modulation; diversity; MIMO systems, wireless multiple access techniques; resource allocation; cross layer optimization; Ad-hoc networks; wireless sensor networks; ultra-wideband (UWB) communications; third generation (3G) and super 3G mobile communications.

Coursework

Eight examples classes - not assessed.

The final class will be for assessed student group presentations on case studies.

COLLOQUIA - ADVANCED MOBILE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS

One/two colloquia. An assessed short report (<1000 words) on the subject of one of the colloquia will be required.

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High-speed access networks: ADSL,VDSL, G.fast; PONs and point-to-point Ethernet; cable networks (DOCSIS and MoCA). Fixed wireless access. High-speed transport networks: SDH, OTN and WDM technology. Quality of Service in the Internet, and multimedia networking. Multicast routing. Differentiated services, queuing disciplines and queue management. Multi-protocol label switching. Wavelength routing and MP?S. Software-defined networking and virtualised network functions. X-as-a-Service concepts. Industry "hot-topic" seminars.

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A major practical system will be developed either in an industrial context or within the department. There are no formal lectures - students will undertake the work in their own time under the regular supervision of a member of the academic staff and, where appropriate, industrial collaborators.

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Teaching and Assessment

The project module is examined by a presentation and dissertation. The Research Methods and Project Design module is examined by several components of continuous assessment. The other modules are assessed by examinations and smaller components of continuous assessment. MSc students must gain credit from all the modules. For the PDip, you must gain at least 120 credits in total, and pass certain modules to meet the learning outcomes of the PDip programme.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • educate graduate engineers and equip them with advanced knowledge of telecommunications and communication networks (including mobile systems), informed by insights and problems at the forefront of these fields of study, for careers in research and development in industry or academia
  • produce high-calibre engineers with experience in specialist and complex problem-solving skills and techniques needed for the interpretation of knowledge and for systems level design in the telecommunications field
  • provide you with proper academic guidance and welfare support
  • create an atmosphere of co-operation and partnership between staff and students, and offer you an environment where you can develop your potential
  • strengthen and expand opportunities for industrial collaboration with the School of Engineering and Digital Arts.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • digital communication systems and networks (including mobile/wireless networks) and an awareness of developing technologies in this field
  • mathematical and computer models for analysis of digital communication systems (including wireless and optical communication systems) and networks
  • design processes relevant to communication systems (including optical, microwave and digital systems) and networks (including wireless/mobile networks)
  • characteristics of materials, equipment, processes and products, such as optical and microwave communications materials, equipment and products, and digital communication systems and networks processes, equipment and products
  • project management techniques relevant to the electronics and computer industries.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • the ability to use fundamental knowledge to explore new and emerging technologies
  • the ability to understand the limitations of mathematical and computer-based problem-solving and assess the impact in particular cases
  • the ability to extract data pertinent to an unfamiliar problem and apply it in the solution
  • the ability to analyse a problem and develop a system level specification, based on an understanding of the interaction between the component parts of the system
  • the ability to apply engineering techniques, taking account of commercial and industrial constraints.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the ability to apply knowledge of design processes in unfamiliar situations and to generate innovative designs to fulfil new needs, particularly in the fields of broadband networks and mobile/wireless communication systems
  • the ability to devise tests of a software and/or hardware system through experiment or simulation and to critically appraise the results
  • the use of CAD tools including high-level system and network simulators to analyse problems and develop solutions
  • the ability to search for technical information and apply it to a design
  • the ability to apply management techniques to the planning, resource allocation and execution of a project
  • the ability to prepare technical reports and presentations.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • the ability to generate, analyse, present and interpret data
  • use of information and communications technology
  • personal and interpersonal skills, working as a member of a team
  • an ability to communicate effectively, in writing, verbally and through drawings
  • the ability for critical thinking, reasoning and reflection
  • the ability to manage time and resources within an individual and group project
  • the ability to learn independently for the purpose of continuing professional development.

Careers

We have developed the programme with a number of industrial organisations, which means that successful students will be in a strong position to build a long-term career in this important discipline.

School of Engineering and Digital Arts has an excellent record of student employability. We are committed to enhancing the employability of all our students, to equip you with the skills and knowledge to succeed in a competitive, fast-moving, knowledge-based economy.

Graduates who can show that they have developed transferable skills and valuable experience are better prepared to start their careers and are more attractive to potential employers. Within the School of Engineering and Digital Arts, you can develop the skills and capabilities that employers are looking for. These include problem solving, independent thought, report-writing, time management, leadership skills, team-working and good communication.

Building on Kent’s success as the region’s leading institution for student employability, we offer many opportunities for you to gain worthwhile experience and develop the specific skills and aptitudes that employers value.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School is well equipped with a wide range of laboratory and computing facilities and software packages for teaching and research support. There is a variety of hardware and software for image acquisition and processing, as well as extensive multimedia computing resources.

The School has facilities for designing embedded systems using programmable logic and ASIC technology, supported by CAD tools and development software from international companies, including Cadence™, Xilinx™, Synopsys™, Altera™, National Instruments® and Mentor Graphics™.

The SMT laboratory can be used for prototyping and small-volume PCB manufacture. A well-equipped instrumentation research laboratory is also available.

Students studying communications have access to both commercial and in-house software tools for designing microwave, RF, optoelectronics and antenna systems (such as ADS™, CST™, HFSS™) and subsequent testing with network and spectrum analysers up to 110 GHz, an on-wafer prober, and high-quality anechoic chambers.

Network simulation is undertaken utilising the widely-used package: OPNET. JPI is used for advanced optical communication system simulation.

Support

As a postgraduate student, you are part of a thriving research community and receive support through a wide-ranging programme of individual supervision, specialised research seminars, general skills training programmes, and general departmental colloquia, usually with external speakers. We encourage you to attend and present your work at major conferences, as well as taking part in our internal conference and seminar programmes.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Recent contributions include: IEEE Transactions; IET Journals; Electronics Letters; Applied Physics; Computers in Human Behaviour.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

A 2.2 or higher honours degree in Electronics, Computer Engineering (not Computer Science) or a related electronics discipline, Physics or Mathematics (especially Applied).

Computer Science degrees with sufficient mathematical content may be considered on an individual basis (pre-sessional Maths may be required).

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Communications

The Group’s activities cover system and component technologies from microwave to terahertz frequencies. These include photonics, antennae and wireless components for a broad range of communication systems. The Group has extensive software research tools together with antenna anechoic chambers, network and spectrum analysers to millimetre wave frequencies and optical signal generation, processing and measurement facilities.

Current main research themes include:

  • photonic components
  • networks/wireless systems
  • microwave and millimetre-wave systems
  • antenna systems
  • radio-over-fibre systems
  • electromagnetic bandgaps and metamaterials
  • frequency selective surfaces.

 

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Professor John Batchelor: Professor of Antenna Technology

Design and modelling of multi-band antennas for personal, on-body and mobile communication systems; passive RFID tagging/sensing and skin mounted transfer tattoo tags; reduced-size frequency selective structures (FSS and EBG) for incorporation into smart buildings for control of radio spectrum.

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Professor Steven Gao: Professor of RF/Microwave Engineering

Space antennas; smart antennas; microwave circuit and systems.

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Professor Nathan Gomes: Professor of Optical Fibre Communications

Optical-microwave interactions, especially fibreradio networks; optoelectronic devices and optical networks.

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Dr Benito Sanz-Izquierdo: Lecturer in Electronic Systems

Antennas and microwaves.

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Dr Peter Lee: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Embedded systems; programmable architectures; high-speed signal processing; VLSI/ASIC design; neural networks; optical sensor systems and applications; image processing using VLSI.

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Mr Robert Oven: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Modelling of ion implantation processes and ion diffusion into glass for integrated optic applications.

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Dr Chao Wang: Lecturer in Electronic Systems

Optical communications; microwave photonics; biophotonics.

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Professor Jiangzhou Wang: Professor of Telecommunications and Head of School

Modulation; coding; MIMO; mobile communications; wireless sensor networks. 

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Dr Paul Young: Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering

Design and modelling of microwave and millimetrewave devices and antennas, especially substrate integrated waveguides and smart antennas.

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Dr Huiling Zhu: Reader in Communications

Wireless communications and networking especially OFDMA; radio resource allocation; distributed antenna systems; wireless relay networks; user-centric networks; cooperative communications.

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Fees

The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Advanced Communications Engineering (RF Technology and Telecommunications) - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7750 £18400
Part-time £3890 £9200

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk


General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

I was attracted to Kent as it is ‘the garden of England’ – postgraduate study is quite intense so I thought living in such a beautiful place, with lots of friendly people would give me a chance to relax.