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Smart solutions

US-based company, Vanu Inc. has been lauded by Forbes magazine for innovating software radio. Meet Vanu Bose, its pioneer, and a man with roots in Chennai

— Pic. by N. Sridharan

Tech savvy: Vanu Bose

TELECOM HAS been sitting on the front page of newspapers for ages, and even lunch and dinner conversations are always about which mobile service provider rocks, and which infuriating one always dies as soon as you leave city limits. For every group of people making the most of every telecom innovation, there is another labouring at scientific breakthroughs that will simplify lives and bring new technology to the market faster.

One such technology toiler is Dr. Vanu Bose (son of billionaire entrepreneur Amar Bose of Bose Corporation), who took his thesis on software radio in MIT out of academic paper and into commercial markets. This leading developer of software radio solutions was in the city at his grandma's home in Archbishop's Avenue, where he says he spent many a summer vacation away from his home in Boston. Vanu looks about his large veranda, sighing, "It's one of the few old houses that still stands in this area. The rest have all turned into apartment blocks." He talked about his work and how his company, Vanu Inc., is the winner of the 2005 GSM Association Technology Innovation Award for Best Network Infrastructure.

Wideband software radio

Vanu Inc. develops wideband software radio that utilises a general-purpose processor, affording greater flexibility to wireless network operators. Usually, different applications, like GSM and CDMA, have different hardware requirements i.e. a company that provides both services will have to develop two separate networks. This is where Vanu Inc. comes in with its software-defined radio that supports more than one standard (GSM, CDMA, TDMA, etc.). "The software can be just installed into any existing hardware/processor the network provider utilises, and it will still support all platforms. This means the company can actually provide more service at half the cost," says Vanu. So in effect, once the company has the software, it can handle any wireless service through it.

If the wireless carrier wants to increase processing speed and add more channels (thereby handle more calls even if time-and-power-consuming cellular visual and audio services are being used), they can do this just by adding another server to the rack of existing ones. "Instead of buying extensive hardware every time they want to improve services, they can just do a software upgrade." New digital communication standards can simply be software downloads to an existing device, instead of the expensive hardware upgrades of today, enabling technology to reach the consumer faster and cheaper.

Right now, Vanu Anywave is applied only in base stations and the U.S. Military, but in time, he plans to directly reach end consumers. "If you have a CDMA cell phone, it can't be a GSM cell phone. The hardware determines the device. Software radio solves that problem. The software can determine what the signal becomes," he says. One single device can fill all wireless communications needs: cellular telephone, cordless phone, pager, radio... a person can switch between each of them at the press of a button.

First Indian venture

Vanu has recently undertaken his first Indian venture with Bangalore's CDOT, which is a leading producer of switches that allow interoperability between landlines and wireless services. "We have already worked with Mid-Tex Cellular, a U.S.-based rural wireless operator. The software radio base station provides clear cost advantages over installing entire new systems," Vanu says. He realises that it might be more challenging in India, because integral power infrastructure is not up to the mark. "But we can work around that, because we're taking into account worst-case scenarios. And deploying the system will be less costly because labour is a lot cheaper here." However, he admits that they need to work more on creating wide-reaching networks for scattered villages, than concentrate on processing speed.

Further details can be found on Dr. Vanu Bose can also be contacted on


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