14:332:301 Forces and Strategies that shaped the Wireless Revolution

Course Catalog Description: 

14:332:301 Forces and Strategies that shaped the Wireless Revolution
A broad view of how business strategies are created based on examples from cellular and other wireless systems. Historical overview of communications and communication systems, basics of wireless technology, technology and politics of cellular, basics of corporate finance, economics of cellular systems and spectrum auctions, case studies in wireless business strategy, the strategic implications of unregulated spectrum, a comparison of 3G and WiFi, and the wireless future.

Pre-Requisite Courses: 

None. This course is broadly multi-disciplinary, and is intended to demonstrate that students can absorb a wide range of information, without a formal background in the subject matter, and can use that information to create effective strategies.

Co-Requisite Courses: 


Pre-Requisite by Topic: 


Textbook & Materials: 

Handouts and lecture notes


1. Handouts including research papers and reading material given by instructor.

Overall Educational Objective: 

To demonstrate multi-disciplinary strategic thinking in a business context, through the particular examples of wireless technology

Course Learning Outcomes: 

A student who successfully completes this course will
1. Understand, through a variety of topics and case studies (as described below) how technology, economics, politics and risk must be incorporated in effective business strategies.
2. Understand the basic nature of communication systems, and how they have evolved.
3. Understand how the politics of monopoly and regulation have influenced the evolution of wireless systems.
4. Understand why frequency and bandwidth matter, and why the transition to digital systems became important.
5. Understand the basics of corporate finance, and how business success is measured in financial terms.
6. Understand how the above knowledge can be effectively applied through real case studies and a student project.
7. Understand how the shortcoming of regulatory approaches in the 1970s led to experiments in unregulated spectrum, and how these have created new systems and business opportunities.
8. Consider the current frontier in wireless technology, and speculate on how it will influence future strategies.

How Course Outcomes are Assessed: 

  • Homework (30%)
  • Mid-Term Exam (30%)
  • Final Project (40%)

N = none S = Supportive H = highly related



Proficiency assessed by

(a) an ability to apply knowledge of Mathematics, science, and engineering


HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussion, Project Meetings

(b) an ability to design and conduct experiments and interpret data


Project meetings and Final Project Report

(c) an ability to design a system, component or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability


HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussion, Project Meetings and Final Project Report

(d) an ability to function as part of a multi-disciplinary team


Group Project Activity

(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve ECE problems


HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussion

(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility


Group Project Work

(g) an ability to communicate in written and oral form


HW Problems, Lecture Discussion, Final Project Report and Presentation

(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of electrical and computer engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context


HW Problems, Exams, Lecture Discussion, Final Project

(i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning


Home-work, discussions during lectures, Final Project

(j) a knowledge of contemporary issues


Lecture Discussion, Final Project

(k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern business and engineering tools


HW Problems, Exams, Final Project

Basic disciplines in Electrical Engineering


HW Problems, Exams, Final Project

Depth in Electrical Engineering


HW Problems, Exams, Final Project

Basic disciplines in Computer Engineering


Depth in Computer Engineering


Laboratory equipment and software tools


Variety of instruction formats


Lecture, office hour discussions, project meetings

Topics Covered week by week: 

Week 1: “Orientation”- The nature of “systems thinking;” communications systems- a historical perspective; the pros and cons of monopoly
Week 2: Wires and waves—the coming of instant communications; mobile telephony on the eve of cellular.
Week 3: The long road to cellular; cellular economics and the million dollar cell; technology challenges; the politics of monopoly and competition.
Week 4: Cellular technology, economics and politics after 1984; pocket phones and digital phones; nationwide roaming; regulatory strategies in the US and Europe; standards wars; recap of cellular
Week 5-6: Communications technology made simple; traffic and the benefits of size; frequency and the cost of coverage; channels and the cost of spectrum; digital communications and the cost of bits
Week 7: Review and midterm
Week 8: The FCC’s other strategy: unlicensed spectrum; cordless telephones and WiFi; the wireless Internet
Week 9: 3G and the cost of bits; Infostations; introduction of the class project
Week 10: “Keeping Score”: A primer in corporate finance- assets and profits; cash flow; leveraging; stock price
Week 11-12: Some case studies in strategic thinking- One-2-One, Nextel, AT&T; Iridium; 3G; AT&T Cordless
Week 13-14: Presentation and discussion of term projects.

Computer Usage: 

Homework Assignments and Final Project

Laboratory Experiences: 


Design Experiences: 

Homework assignments have some design component and Final Project

Independent Learning Experiences : 

Homework involves information searches. Final Project work involves group oriented as well as individual responsibilities

Contribution to the Professional Component: 

(a) History of the Wireless Revolution: 1 credit hours
(b) Political, Economic and Technical Forces and Strategies: 1 credit hours
(c) General Education: 1 credit hours


Grades are based on homework, midterm exam and final project

Prepared by: 
Narayan Mandayam
May, 2011