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November 8, 2018

Celebrating National S.T.E.M. Day the Wireless Way .

Celebrating National S.T.E.M. Day the Wireless Way


Anderson Sullivan

From spectrum and small cells to the sim card, science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) are the building blocks of the wireless experience.

In honor of National S.T.E.M Day, we’re taking a look at the life and work of one such S.T.E.M. leader—Philip T. Porter, a notable wireless engineer whose work revolutionized cellular networks.

Porter, an electrical engineer at Bell Labs, played an integral role in the development of early wireless networks. One of his major contributions was the idea that cell towers should be at the corners of hexagon cells, rather than at the center, and have antennas that could transmit and receive signals in three directions into nearby hexagonal cells.

This allowed for a large number of mobile devices to be supported in a given area, because the cell sites could use the same frequency in close proximity and create better coverage.

Cellular network design was just one of the many projects Porter worked on throughout his career. He’s also the person we can thank for the ‘send’ and ‘end’ call functions on our phones.

Porter created preorigination dialing—the practice of entering the phone number the user is calling before the phone call officially begins. Instead of beginning cellular air time coverage the second a consumer picked up the phone, this technology allowed the charge to start after the consumer hit the send button.

The other benefit? Efficiency. Porter developed this idea because channel time was being wasted during each call while the consumer dialed the phone.

Before his work at Bell Labs, Porter received his BA in physics, MA in physics, and a PhD from Vanderbilt University. In 1990 he was named an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow and was inducted into the Wireless History Hall of Fame in 2016.

Porter’s work was foundational for the wireless networks that are used today. We appreciate his contributions to the industry and hope his story inspires others to pursue S.T.E.M. opportunities in the wireless industry. The next wireless innovation is always right around the corner, thanks to science, technology, engineering, and math.

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