Jian Gao, PhD candidate in engineering at NYU Abu Dhabi, is investigating how a next generation model of mobile communications could be the key to faster cell service, fewer dropped calls, and cheaper phone bills.

"Our model proposes device-to-device (D2D) communication channels to transmit data in short-range interactions, which would eliminate the need to transmit information through the tower or base station,” said Gao.

D2D technology works similarly to personal hotspots shared between individuals, the engineers call this process of data-sharing crowdforwarding.

“Currently 4G network in the UAE is provided through big mobile phone towers,” Gao said. “When person A makes a phone call, the signal goes through these towers to reach person B. With a growing population, operators need to build more towers to provide quality connections. To cover the cost, person A is charged for making a call. This type of transmission is a waste of resources if person B is physically in the area.”

Instead of base stations, D2D communication uses local devices to transmit the data.

In the crowdforwarding network model, each phone would act as a temporary router and those who share their data would be rewarded for it, either paid by the individual using it or paid by the cell phone company.

However, crowdforwarding utilises a significant amount of data and battery life, and information security provides a challenge as the data would pass through other users. “The next part of our work is to figure out how to keep the network away from attackers and viruses,” Gao added.

Gao won the Best Paper Award for his research at an international conference on communications and mobile technology .