Prince Philip Medal awarded to inventor of MIMO wireless technology

13th June 2024
Paige West

Dr Arogyaswami J Paulraj, Emeritus Professor at Stanford University and Senior Advisor for deeptech venture capital firm Celesta Capital, has been honoured with the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Prince Philip Medal.

The award was presented by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Royal Fellow of the Academy, in London on 11th June.

Awarded biennially, the Prince Philip Medal recognises engineers who have made exceptional contributions to the field through practice, management, or education. The medal, first presented in 1991 to jet engine pioneer Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, honours groundbreaking achievements in engineering.

The 2024 Prince Philip Medal acknowledges Dr Paulraj’s invention and commercialisation of Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO) wireless technology, which is fundamental to 4G, 5G mobile, and Wi-Fi networks.

Today, more than 6.5 billion smartphone users globally benefit from MIMO-powered wireless networks, with 75% of global Internet access occurring via wireless. This technology has significantly boosted the digital economy, which accounts for 10% of GDP in advanced economies and is expected to rise to 40% within the next three decades. The estimated global economic value of wireless networks exceeds $7.5 trillion annually.

In India, over 1.1 billion people are 4G/5G subscribers. Entry-level smartphones priced below $90 and affordable access charges have enabled people across all economic levels to utilise the expanding digital public infrastructure. MIMO technology-powered wireless Internet has become a crucial catalyst for India’s economic growth.

“I am deeply honoured to receive this prestigious recognition,” said Dr Paulraj. “After pioneering this breakthrough wireless technology and now seeing its transformative impact, it is indeed humbling. I remain excited for more opportunities for innovations driven by new applications and the increasing geographic spread of wireless networks.”

Dr Paulraj served in the Indian Navy for 25 years on R&D assignments, developing ASW sonar systems and taking sabbaticals at Stanford University and IIT Delhi, where he made foundational contributions to the theory of signal processing. He also played a key role in founding three national labs in India: AI and Robotics, High-Speed Computing, and Military Electronics. In 1991, Dr Paulraj retired from the Navy with the rank of Commodore and joined Stanford University as a research associate.

Dr Paulraj has received numerous awards in technology, including the Faraday Medal, the Alexander Graham Bell Medal, and the Marconi Prize. He has also been honoured with the Padma Bhushan award from the Government of India and the Friendship Award from the Government of the People's Republic of China.

Nominating Professor Paulraj for the award, Dr Mallikarjun Tatipamula FREng FRSE, CTO at Ericsson Silicon Valley, said: “Professor Paulraj is a most deserving winner of the Prince Philip Medal, the Royal Academy of Engineering’s most prestigious individual award, not only for the theoretical breakthroughs that led to the invention of MIMO, but also for his successful development and commercialisation of the technology, which today is deployed at a global scale. The 4G and 5G mobile and Wi-Fi access that we often take for granted would simply not be possible without MIMO.”

Professor Lajos Hanzo FREng, Chair of Telecommunications at the University of Southampton, said: “I cannot help but stress my great admiration for Paul’s contributions both to theoretical breakthroughs and his ability to translate them into practical systems. Entering the Navy at a very young age, Paul had very little formal academic education, but he repeatedly entered new fields, teaching himself a broad range of mathematical and engineering topics.”

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