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January 24, 2002 Anjali Agarwal develops new, user-friendly services



Anjali Agarwal

Anjali Agarwal

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Janice Hamilton

Most of us are familiar with the Internet as a source of data, e-mail and keyboard-to-keyboard chat rooms, but in the future, the Net is expected to take over many of the services currently provided by telephones, such as voice communication, call display and call waiting, as well as multimedia services such as video-conferencing, says Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Anjali Agarwal.

In fact, voice transmission over the Net (engineers call it IP telephony, for Voice Over Internet Protocol) has been around for some years, but it has never really caught on, largely because the voice quality has been poor. Such “quality of service” issues are one of Agarwal’s main research interests, along with real-time networking and broadband wireless communications for corporate networks.

“Most of my work is on real-time multimedia communication over the Internet, including voice, video and data transmission,” she explained. The challenges include addressing the issues of delay, variance in the delay, and network traffic experienced in data transmission and receipt, since some customers may pay extra, to ensure the delay period is short.

“I’m working on interworking. I provide mechanisms of signalling, or a method to establish a call end-to-end. Both parties may use different standards (they may use different service requirements, for example,) but nevertheless the connection provides the required service to both users.

“It all boils down to how to deliver end-to-end quality of service, based on appropriate network configurations and different classes of service.” This research is primarily funded by NSERC.

Agarwal also teaches in this field. Despite the current economic slowdown, she says, many companies are still doing a lot of work in her areas of interest, and the graduate course she teaches in real-time multimedia communication over the Internet is a hit with students.

Agarwal has been on the faculty of Concordia since 1999. She grew up in New Delhi and obtained her undergraduate degree there. Then she accompanied her husband to Calgary, where he was doing a PhD, and she got an MSc in electrical engineering from the University of Calgary in 1986.

The couple returned to India for several years, where she was a lecturer at the University of Roorkee, now part of the Indian Institute of Technology.

She received her PhD from Concordia in 1996, then worked in industry for several years, first at Positron Fiber Systems, then at Harris Communications.

At Harris, she was a protocol design engineer, providing specifications for Internet voice technology for broadband wireless access products. Since coming to Concordia, she has also worked on broadband wireless access issues in a joint research project with industrial partner BroadTel Canada.

“That was mostly to develop the protocols for the media access control, and to connect the broadband wireless from the customer site to the network site,” she said, adding that that project is now almost finished.

Broadband wireless access is a new technology that is competing with telephone and cable companies to provide customers with communications services. It is able to deliver large amounts of data, voice and video information quickly and cheaply.