1. Introduction: Communications are everywhere
Today's society is firmly founded on electronic communication systems and it is hard to imagine life without them. Global systems like TV, radio, the internet and wired and mobile telephones have a fundamental impact on the way we live and work. Advanced communication technology supports the operations of industries, businesses and banks; vehicles and transportation systems; household entertainment electronics and the global flow of news and knowledge. These systems typically include a high-capacity backbone, consisting of wired cables or optical fibers, to which users are connected wirelessly for mobility and convenience.
Fast and reliable transmission of information reduces the need for energy-consuming transportation of documents and people, thereby contributing to a healthy environment. Information systems for medical diagnosis and treatment, traffic safety and guidance, and environmental monitoring save lives. Also, making true progress in developing countries depends to a large extent on the availability of reliable communications.
Mankind has always communicated, but the means of communication changes. This process has accelerated in the last decades. How will we communicate ten years from now? No one knows, but three things are almost certain: There will still be advanced communication systems, some of them will be different from what the world knows today and communication engineers will be needed to develop and maintain them.
The Master's programme Communication Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, is a fully revised version of the very popular programme Digital Communication Systems and Technology, which was given from 1992 to 2006 and was the largest Master's programme at Chalmers throughout this period. The new programme, given from 2007, builds upon pedagogical experience from the old programme in combination with recent advances and trends in the rapidly evolving field of communications.
The required background is a Bachelor's degree with major in Electrical Engineering, Communication Engineering, Automation & Mechatronics Engineering, Computer Science & Engineering, Information Engineering, Engineering Physics or equivalent. This should include the following skills at a bachelor's level: signals and systems theory (including linear systems and transforms), mathematical analysis (including probability and linear algebra) and basic programming. Basic knowledge in data communications is recommended.
The programme is associated with the Bachelor's ("kandidat") programmes in Electrical Engineering at Chalmers. It is also accredited in four other Bachelor's programmes at Chalmers, as detailed in the list below, where also the prerequisites are detailed in terms of courses.
- Elektroteknik (E). Mandatory: Matematisk statistik och signalbehandling (ESS011, E2), Linjära system och transformer (TMA981, E2), Linjär algebra E (TMV141, E1) and Objektorienterad programmering E (TDA546, E1). No required elective courses.
- Datateknik (D). Mandatory: Transformer, signaler och system (SSY080, D3), Linjär algebra D (TMV215, D1), Matematisk statistik och diskret matematik (MVE055, D2) and at least one of Introduktion till funktionell programmering (TDA555, D1) or Objektorienterad programmering (DAT040, D2). No required elective courses.
- Teknisk Fysik (F). Mandatory: Komplex matematisk analys (MVE025, F2), Fourieranalys F (MVE031, F2), Linjär algebra och geometri F (TMA660, F1), Matematisk statistik F (TMA321, F2) and Programmeringsteknik F (TIN211, F1). Semielective: Reglerteknik F (ERE091, F2).
- Informationsteknik (IT). Mandatory: Linjär algebra IT (TMV205, IT1), Matematisk statistik och diskret matematik IT (MVE050, IT2), Objektorienterad programvaruutveckling (TDA545, IT1). Elective: Signals and systems from another programme (SSY040, SSY080 or TMA981).
- Automation och mekatronik (Z). Mandatory: Sensorer, signaler och system (SSY040, Z2), Linjär algebra Z (TMV140, Z1), Matematisk statistik (Z3) and Objektorienterad programmering (TDA540, Z1). No required elective courses.
Students from Chalmers' "högskoleingenjör" programme Elektroingenjör are eligible, under the condition of the elective course Matematisk analys i flera variabler (LMA017) or an equivalent course.
Students from other programmes or other universities are assessed on an individual basis, based on the prerequired skills listed in the first paragraph of this section.
The programme leads to a Master of Science Degree (in Communication Engineering). If the degree requirements for the E, D, F, IT or Z programmes at Chalmers (see above) are fulfilled, it may be included in a "civilingenjör" degree in one of these fields.
4. Career opportunities
Many of our former students work as technical specialists in development, construction or maintenance of communication technology, either working on a system level or with specific equipment or applications. Some have progressed to leading positions. Major employers are the well-known international telecom companies, of course, but there are also plenty of smaller companies in the field in western Sweden and elsewhere. The car industry is another major employer nowadays, since all modern cars include an internal communication network, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication is becoming a hot research and development topic. Furthermore, advanced communication engineers are in big demand in the third world, where the telecommunication infrastructure is presently undergoing a rapid development and expansion, similar to what the industrial world experienced in the 1990's.
The programme can also serve as a platform for further studies. Many of our former students have chosen an academic career and been admitted to Ph.D. studies at Chalmers, elsewhere in Europe or in America.
5. Programme aim
The aim of the Master's programme Communication Engineering is:
- to prepare students for advanced engineering careers or Ph.D. studies in the field of communication engineering, by developing not only knowledge about the communication systems in today's society but also a solid competence in the fundamental principles by which such systems, present as well as future, are designed.
6. Learning outcomes
Knowledge and understanding
After completion of the programme Communication Engineering, students should be able to...
- describe complex communication system in terms of blocks (subsystems or "black boxes") and their interfaces
- describe the main principles and functions of some modern digital communication standards
- formulate information-theoretic limits for data transmission and storage and elaborate on their implications
- describe mathematical models for typical communication channels and use them to compute input - output relations
- explain how various forms of coding can achieve robustness against transmission errors or compact digital representations of data
Skills and abilities
After completion of the programme Communication Engineering, students should be able to...
- apply stochastic methods in the design and analysis of communication systems or parts thereof
- apply signal processing algorithms in the design and analysis of communication systems or parts thereof
- design and optimize functions in a communication system that satisfy given requirements on the performance and interfaces, using appropriate scientific methods and software tools
- evaluate communication systems by simulating them
- work in teams with different compositions towards common goals, including solving complex tasks by dividing them into subtasks
- communicate their results and judgements, as well as underlying background knowledge, with appropriate consideration of the purpose, medium, audience and ethical responsibilities
...and, after a suitable specialization also to...
- design and verify communication electronics, with digital as well as analog content, with a system-oriented approach
- model, design and develop transmitting and receiving microwave and photonic systems for, e.g., high-frequency radio, fiber-optic and microwave links
- develop applications and services for biomedical communication, signal processing and diagnosis
- develop robust and secure applications and systems for the internet and other computer networks
- use and develop satellite and spacecraft systems for communications and positioning, including navigation
- independently solve research problems in communications and signal processing using advanced mathematical analysis
Formulation of judgements and attitudes
After completion of the programme Communication Engineering, students should be able to...
- relate the technical specifications of a communication system to its role in society, including economical, environmental, and ethical considerations, as well as to regulation and standardization
- reflect upon how communication technology interacts with the physiology of the human being, including aspects of health and perception, and which responsibilities this places on the engineer
- independently acquire information and learn about functions and principles of future communication systems and theoretical advances in the field
- justify simplifications and assumptions made in the modelling and analysis of communication systems and parts thereof
These learning outcomes together fulfill the Swedish Degree Ordinance for the Master's degree and the "civilingenjör" degree, as specified in the Swedish statutes (SFS 2006:1053), and they are organized in the same format.
7. Programme idea
An important part of the education is to study the design, function and limitations of today's communication systems, such as GSM, WCDMA, WLAN, internet, Bluetooth, ADSL, HDTV, etc. However, just learning today's systems does not suffice in such a dynamic field as communications. A student of Communication Engineering at Chalmers learns not only how but also why. In order to be able to gain insight into tomorrow's communication systems, and to develop such systems, it is essential to have a solid analytical skill and an understanding of fundamental communication principles, where mathematics and signal processing are important tools. Through this combination of theoretical and applied knowledge, a student with a degree in Communication Engineering is well prepared for a lifelong learning process in communications.
The pedagogical structure of the programme is targeted towards the typical system design process in the communication industry. Since it is costly and time consuming to implement a communication system in a laboratory, the early stages of the development process are usually handled using simulation software like Matlab, where mathematical models of transmitters, channels and receivers are used in place of actual equipment. This holds not only for industry; the approach is similar in academic research environments. Hence, the programme Communication Engineering emphasizes analytical skills, mathematical models and simulations. Hardware properties are considered in the formulation and validation of the models.
Skills in general competencies like teamwork, documentation and presentation, which are extremely important in industry, are developed, in various ways, in most of the courses. The starting point for the learning progression is the last course before the program, the Bachelor?s thesis, where documentation and presentation have a central role , and the first course in the program, where the basics of teamwork is learnt. Some emphasis is places on solving complex tasks by defining subtasks and interfaces, performing these subtasks independently, and assembling the results, which is how typical design processes in industry are organized.
The mandatory block gives knowledge and experience in fundamental communication methods and their underlying principles in mathematics and signal processing. At the same time, it provides insight, mainly on a descriptive level, into the functions and designs of modern communication systems. It consists of four courses:
- Introduction to Communication Engineering gives an overview over fundamental concepts in communication engineering and insight into modern communication standards, with some emphasis on commercial wireless systems. A theoretical framework for signal analysis and transmission is developed, and it is utilized to design a simple digital communication system in a laboratory setting. It is a broad, introductory course.
- Random Processes with Applications gives the necessary tools for understanding stochastic models of signals and noise. These are used in the design and analysis of many engineering systems, including communications and control to name a few. The course covers various characterizations of random signals as well as statistical inference (estimation) based on these. Applications in radar and communications are emphasized.
- In Digital Communications, we derive a powerful theoretical framework for analysing and designing advanced communication systems, based on stochastic methods. The course covers methods for digital modulation, coding and detection, for various types of channel disturbances and limitations. The theory is complemented with experiments on real communication systems.
- Applied Signal Processing gives an understanding of modern signal processing, which is an essential tool in most digital communication systems. Students get hands-on experience of working with digital signal processors as well as the theoretical knowledge for properly considering the effects of sampling, quantization, filtering and spectrum analysis in the modelling and development of transmitters and receivers for communication systems.
These skills are applied and enhanced in the semielective block, in which the most modern communication systems are studied. Based on the theoretical principles learnt in the mandatory courses, the students get insight into not only how these systems work but also why they were designed in a certain way and what their limitations are. The semielective courses are Wireless Communications; Information Theory and Source Coding; Multimedia and Video Communications and Wireless Networks.
To address the demand for communication engineers with competencies that enhance the core subjects towards certain application areas, the programme offers elective courses in the following Engineering Specializations. (Students may also graduate without a formal specialization, which allows for a less restricted selection of elective courses.)
- Communication Electronics: Students who follow this specialization learn to design and verify communication electronics, with digital as well as analog content, with a system-oriented approach.
- Hardware for Transmission Links: This specialization provides insight into the physical properties and limitations of the most common communication channels. It also gives knowledge and understanding of the hardware required for transmitters and receivers.
- Healthcare Informatics: Supporting traditional systems for medical diagnosis and treatment with modern communication and signal processing technology, so called "eHealth", is a rapidly advancing field, which is the focus of this specialization.
- Networks and Computer Communications: In this specialization, students study the higher layers of the communication hierarchy, gain knowledge about how to design reliable and secure communication systems and applications, and study basic networking techniques.
- Space Communications: The use of space systems for communications offers advantages such as the possibility to reach remote areas, as well as technological challenges related to the space environment. In this specialization, students learn how spacecraft systems work and gain a solid base in radio and microwave engineering, enabling them to use and develop satellite systems for communication and positioning, including navigation.
The courses, which are all coordinated with other Master's programmes at Chalmers, are detailed in Section 8.
In addition to the five engineering specializations, the programme includes a Research Specialization, which develops the core topics of the programme into greater depth and is primarily intended to prepare students for Ph.D. studies in communications, at Chalmers or elsewhere. These courses all belong to the research school of Signals and System and are studied jointly with Ph.D. candidates.
A small number of nontechnical courses are also included among the elective courses of the programme, to supplement either of the specializations above with general competencies that may be useful in the professional role of a communication engineer, such as management, environment, society, economy and English. Another elective course that does not belong to any specialization is Computer Communications. This is a fundamental subject in communication engineering, which is included in most of the relevant "kandidat" and "högskoleingenjör" programmes at Chalmers, but not in all corresponding Bachelor's programmes in other universities.
The Master's Thesis gives the student training in individual research, project planning, documentation and presentation. It can be carried out at a Chalmers department, in industry or in another university or research institute.
Finally, Computer Introduction is a short, voluntary course that gives a condensed introduction to the computer systems at Chalmers and the software used in the education of the programme. It is mainly intended for students from outside Chalmers.
8. Degree requirements
To be awarded the Master's degree the student has to
- pass at least 45 hec of Compulsory courses (4 courses) and semielective Recommended courses (2 of 4 courses)
- finish a Master's Thesis in a subject approved by the programme coordinator
- pass elective courses or make a larger 60 hec thesis work to acquire a total of 120 hec, of which at least 90 hec must be Advanced level courses (thesis included).
- A Minor might be a part of the degree, see Minors.
Students are recommended to follow one of the specializations described in Section 7 as a part of the elective courses. Each specialization, except the Research Specialization, is offered by another Master’s programme at Chalmers, whose core subjects are related to and supplement Communication Engineering. The elective courses in each specialization are listed in this Table. The degree will be formally associated with a certain specialization for students who pass at least three courses and a Master’s thesis in the field of the specialization, in addition to the compulsory and semielective courses. It is not possible to have both a specilization and a minor.
(Master’s programme or research school)
to Electronic System Design (Q1), Digital Circuit Design (Q1), Analog Circuit
Design (Q2), Data conversion Techniques (Q3)
Integrated Electronic System Design
for Transmission Links
Wireless and Photonics System Engineering (Q1),
Fiber-Optic Communications (Q1), Antenna Engineering (Q4)
Wireless and Photonics Engineering
Medicine for the Engineer (Q1–2), Image
Processing (Q1), Image Analysis (Q2), eHealth (Q4), Bioelectromagnetics (Q4)
and Computer Communications
Internet Technology (Q1), Network Security
(Q2), Cryptography (Q2)
Networks and Distributed Systems
Space Science and Techniques (Q1), Radio
and Microwave Engineering (Q1), Satellite Communications (Q2), Satellite
Positioning (Q2), Antenna Engineering (Q4)
Radio and Space Science
Matrix Analysis with Applications (Q1), Probability
and Random Processes (Q2), Information Theory (Q3, biannual), Estimation and
Detection Theory (Q4, biannual), Error Control Coding (Q4, biannual)
Signals and Systems Research
are two kinds of specializations in Communication Engineering: Engineering
Specializations (top five lines) and a
Research Specialization (bottom line). All courses comprise 7.5 hec.
Regardless of the specialization chosen, students are recommended to include at least one nontechnical course, such as Technical Writing or Project Management, among the elective courses. Observe that prerequisites may apply to some elective courses; students should themselves verify that their background is adequate before selecting.
This study programme syllabus is valid from July 1, 2008.