Research Group

Communications and Networks (COMNET)

Two men wearing tinted eye protector glasses, one of them reaching out to a switch on a piece of equipment on a shelf at head height.

Essex has a long-standing tradition of research into Communications and Networks (COMNET). It was one of the first UK universities to actively research into these areas, back in the Department of Electronic System Engineering (ESE).

The group’s mission is the design of next generation wireless communication, network architectures and systems. COMNET has a long history of collaborating with other research institutions and industries including almost all the Tier-1 operators in Europe such as British Telecom (BT) and major telecom vendors such as Ericsson. Impactful patents and proposals to standardisation bodies have been generated out of these collaborations.

The group encompasses three associated research laboratories:

  • The Access Networks Laboratory (ANL) has state-of-the-art wireless and system measurement tools with approximate total value £500k. These include a top-of-the-range 100GHz sampling scope, a 40GHz real-time signal analyser, 67GHz and 70-90GHz vector network analysers, a 40Gb/s data test-set and a 400Gb/s optical sampling head. The equipment has been funded in part from EU grants and in part by University infrastructure funds and was used in several grants and consultancies, including several from the EU commission (SODALES, UROOF, iCIRRUS and CHARISMA), an EPSRC grant (NIRVANA) and six KTPs.
  • The Network Convergence Laboratory (NCL) maintains a well-equipped research network test bed that consists of electrical and optical core networking technologies and heterogeneous wireless access networking technologies across the University campus and surrounding areas. In addition to hosting several planetLab nodes, NCL is also connected to GENI in USA via openFlow switches, and is the host to an enterprise SAN, a blade cluster of 70+ CPUs. The testbed is also a home to an edge computing cluster. These facilities have been used in various EU and EPSRC projects, such as EPSRC NIRVANA and TANGO and EU H2020 POINT, iCIRRUS and SerIOT.
  • The Optoelectronics Laboratory houses lasers, detectors and optical components for optical spectroscopy of semiconductor devices from IR to UV wavelengths; various cryostats and kits for electronic transport measurements in semiconductor devices from T=1.3k to 300k; optical spectroscopy with 100 picosecond resolution; electronic transport measurement facility with 1ns time resolution and up-to electric fields of 250 kV/cm; a clean room; a micro-fabrication facility.
  • The RF & Microwave Research Laboratory houses modern equipment for developing devices and systems up to 67 GHz, including several scalar and vector network analysers, signal sources, spectrum analysers, an atomic-force microscope, mm-wave antenna radiation pattern measurement, as well as design workstations with ADS and CST software. The equipment (which cost in excess of £500k) was mainly obtained through EPSRC grants and SRIF funding and has been used in research projects such as the EPSRC grant on Liquid Crystal Based Beam Steerable Planar Antennas for 60 GHz Wireless Networks and Full duplex radios. The Laboratory has also a refurbished clean room and micro-fabrication facility through a £500k University investment.

Our academic staff

Dr Vahid Abolghasemi

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Prof Michael Adams

Emeritus Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Mays Al-Naday

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Michael Barros

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr David Bebbington

Senior Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Eirina Bourtsoulatze

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Professor Mohammed Ghanbari

Emeritus Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Professor Malcolm Hawksford

Emeritus Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Jianhua He

Reader

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Prof Ian Henning

Emeritus Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Zilong Liu

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Professor Rodney Loudon

Emeritus Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Professor Dariush Mirshekar-Syahkal

Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Professor Leila Musavian

Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Nigel Newton

Reader

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Borzoo Rassouli

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Professor Martin Reed

Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

 Brian Ridley

Emeritus Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Stephen Sangwine

Associate Fellow

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Manoj Thakur

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Nikolaos Thomos

Reader

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Morteza Varasteh

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Professor Stuart Walker

Professor

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Nick Zakhleniuk

Senior Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Dr Xinruo Zhang

Lecturer

School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, University of Essex

Activity in the group

Research interests

The Group covers a wide range of research interests:

  • Optoelectronics, antenna design
  • Signal processing, coding and information theoretical aspects of communication systems
  • Wireless communications (including molecular communications), wireless networks and Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Future Internet Architecture
  • Network Security and Information Privacy
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) for communications and networking.

Research excellence

The COMNET group members publish in the best research outlets in the field including IEEE Trans. which evidence the excellence of our research. In addition to rich publications in mainstream journals this Group has a long history of collaborating with other research institutions and industries. The group has made fundamental theoretical and practical contributions where:

  • The group attracted awards worth £4.1M in the REF period from the EPSRC, EU and Innovate UK.
  • Reed and Al-Naday’s IP-over-ICN work has been included in the 5G standards (3GPP Release 16, Technical Specification Group Services and System Aspects; 3GPP TS 23.501 V16.1.0 2019-06).
  • Walker’s pioneering research resulted in the world’s first 10GbE backbone link for trains achieving bandwidth capacity previously considered impossible.
  • Essex researchers (Reed, Ghanbari, Masara) have pioneered new techniques for measuring the quality of speech and video transmitted over the Internet. This was result of collaboration with Dolby and Microsoft. The techniques were incorporated into Microsoft’s product Skype for Business and by 2016 was used to measure the voice quality of approximately 100 million users globally, including the US and UK.
  • The group has rich testbeds which served within the networking hubs of many EU projects including H2020 POINT, a collaborative project proposing a radically new IP-over-ICN architecture to shape future Internet, and H2020 SerIoT, a collaborative project proposing intelligent approaches to perform anomaly detection using SDN and Blockchain technologies in IoT networks.
  • The IP-over-ICN testbed developed by the group was demonstrated at two Mobile World Congresses (Barcelona), which is the premier showcase for the mobile industry.
  • COMNET’s network testbed, together with its cloud and edge computing facilities, are also an essential part of a global testbed initiative IEEE InterCloud, where Yang was a founding member and one of the six executive committee members.

Research community

  • We organise regular research seminars given by speakers from both academia and industries, covering a wide range of areas of communications and networks and their applications. For example, Mathias Kern (senior research manager) & Dr. Andrew Reeves of British Telecom (working on a project about Future Smart Infrastructure), Leah Claireaux of BT (security researcher in a Cyber Defence), Cesar Vargas (Head of Tecnologico de Monterrey), Dr. Shanpu Shen (Academic in Imperial College London), Louise Krug (leader of sustainability research programme within BT), Dr. David Kurka (Postdoc in Imperial College).
  • In the COMNET group, Walker and Yang were Essex PIs of the European commission funded iCIRRUS in a project in partnership with ORANGE SA (France), WELLNESS TELECOM SL (Spain), ADVA (Germany), Interdigital Ltd (UK), among others. Reed, Thomos, and Yang were Essex PIs of the EU-funded project POINT in a project in partnership with Interdigital Ltd (UK), Primetel (Cyprus), RTWH Aachen (Germany), Aalto University (Finland), among others. Reed and Thomos were Essex PIs in another EU-funded project involving DT-sys (Germany), DT (Germany), ATOS (Spain), CERTH/ITI (Greece), among others. Academics from the group also participate in EU-funded actions aiming at building/strengthening collaborations between EU and Chinese research institutions such as CROWN (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IRSES - Marie Curie Action) and CLIMBER (FP7-PEOPLE) and across Europe such as RECENT (H2020 MCSA-RISE), involving partners from UK, Portugal, Finland, and Turkey. 
  • Walker has been appointed BT liaison Officer by the University of Essex. Successes include, for example, the reconnection of a fibre link between BT Adastral Park and the Colchester Campus, the instigation of five new taught MSc projects joint with BT, and first-time contributions to the Tommy Flowers Institute conference series.
Get in touch
Professor Kun Yang Head of Group