Engineering Science

Collaborators drawn to new wireless communications lab

November 28, 2012

Today’s opening of the Sierra Wireless Mobile Communications Laboratory at Simon Fraser University places B.C. at the forefront of wireless communications research and education.

The laboratory, comprising a world-class antenna chamber, also extends the outreach of SFU’s research by enabling new collaborations with industry and research partners across North America.

The lab is one of the most advanced in Canada and is capable of high-speed antenna pattern mapping. Researchers can now measure antenna patterns within minutes or hours, a process that would take up to 48 hours, and involve a lot of human intervention, using conventional methods.

Sierra Wireless, a wireless industry leader, has partnered with SFU’s School of Engineering Science in the Faculty of Applied Sciences to promote excellence in the area of wireless communications.

Based in Richmond, B.C., Sierra Wireless contributed $400,000 to develop the Mobile Communications Laboratory. This gift enabled a further $1,125,000 in support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Western Economic Diversification Canada and B.C.’s Knowledge Development Fund.

Additionally, Sierra Wireless established a Professorship in Mobile Communications with a $600,000 endowment. Rodney Vaughan, a professor in the School of Engineering Science, holds the position.

“Sierra Wireless has made a long-term commitment to strengthening the relationship between industry and local universities, and to promoting excellence in research and teaching at SFU,” said Jason Cohenour, President and CEO of Sierra Wireless.

“We believe that investments in building the wireless industry ecosystem in British Columbia provide a lasting positive impact on both the industry and the community.”

Fifteen companies are using the Sierra Wireless Mobile Communications Laboratory for advanced research, including Fastback Networks, a start-up company developing smart antennas. Fastback Networks is based in San Jose, California, but has established a B.C. branch to hire locally trained engineers for research and development.

“SFU is engaging research partners and industry here in B.C. and right across North America,” says Vaughan. “Upcoming projects include developing antenna concepts for satellite communications, new on-chip antennas, industrial ‘green energy’ microwave food drying and spatial signal processing for acoustic noise reduction.” 

Wireless communications impacts devices such as cell phones and computers, as well as connectivity to databases and the Internet.

“SFU’s engineering students can now access a world-class facility thanks to Sierra Wireless’ contribution,” says Nimal Rajapakse, dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences. “As an industry leader and community-minded organization, Sierra Wireless is ensuring a legacy of excellence in B.C.’s wireless communication industry.”

See backgrounder here.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

Karen Lee, applied sciences communications, 778.782.3923;
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.4323;


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