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306 N. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Ph: (217) 333-2300
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Undergraduate: Subdisciplines:

Communication Systems

Today's information age is supported by the twin pillars of the Internet and wireless networks, two prototypical examples of communication systems. Communication, in the broadest sense, is the transfer of information in space and time, from someone who possesses it to someone who does not.  Nowadays, communication is almost universally in digital format. The key physical resources used are bandwidth, power, and storage space, and the goal is to transfer the information as reliably and securely as possible, using as little of the resources as possible.

A deep mathematical understanding of the trade-offs involved in efficient reliable communication has had a significant impact on the design and engineering of communication systems for more than a century, in applications as diverse as basic wireline voice telephone networks, satellite and deep-space communications, terrestrial cellular networks, and data storage systems. The related technical skills, such as dealing with randomness and complexity, often translate to applications beyond communication systems. Indeed, students specializing in communication are widely sought after even in industries seemingly far removed, such as those on Wall Street, and those developing new computational systems and Internet applications.

Recommended courses for students with primary interests in other areas

ECE 361 and ECE 459 are the first courses in communication systems and ECE 438 is the first course in communication networks. ECE 361 is typically offered in the Spring semester and addresses the fundamental principles of digital communications. ECE 459 is typically offered in the Fall semester and addresses the analog underpinnings of digital and analog communications. ECE 438 is usually offered every semester. Also, COMM 462 and COMM 468, which discuss management, legal, and policy issues in large-scale telecommunication systems, and which are on the list of College of Engineering Approved Social Science Electives, may be of interest.

Recommended courses for students with primary interests in communication systems

All students with primary interests in communication systems are advised to take three courses as follows:

  • ECE 313 (Probability with Engineering Applications)
  • ECE 361 (Digital Communications) or ECE 459 (Communication Systems)
  • ECE 453 (Radio Communication Circuits) or ECE 463 (Digital Communications Lab)

It is recommended that ECE 313 be taken as early as possible (preferably no later than the first semester of the junior year) so that the other courses can be completed before graduation. Many other courses are relevant to a career in communication systems, and, depending on the student's interests, a variety of selections can be made to satisfy the curricular requirements. In addition to the courses above, some suggestions for electives are given below, organized by subspecialties .

Taking the above courses satisfies the Elective ECE Laboratory Requirement and most of the ECE Technical Electives Requirement for Electrical Engineering majors, as well as most of the ECE/CS Technical Elective Requirement for Computer Engineering majors. In planning programs of studies, keep in mind that some of the courses listed above are offered only once each year.

Students planning on graduate studies should consider taking the more advanced course MATH 416 in place of MATH 415, as well as either MATH 444 or MATH 447. Occasionally, some undergraduates take a graduate-level course such as ECE 534 (Random Processes), ECE 562 (Advanced Digital Communication) or ECE 563 (Information Theory).

COMM 462 and COMM 468 which discuss management, legal, and policy issues in large-scale telecommunication systems and which are also on the College of Engineering list of Approved Social Science Electives, may be of interest.

Area related faculty: