Dr. Hatim Zaghloul a Muslim inventor is an admired figure in the telecommunications industry, as he and his business partner and co-inventor, Dr. Michel Fattouche, have invented Wifi that changed the world.
If you googled for who invented Wifi, the answer you would get would not be either Dr. Zaghloul or Dr. Fattouche. The credit went to Vic Hayes who chaired the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) committee that created the 802.11 standards in 1997.
However, in 1992, Dr. Zaghloul and Dr. Michel Fattouche founded Wi-LAN Inc and the company is the patent holder for technologies invented by Dr. Zaghloul and Dr. Fattouche, including Wide-band Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (WOFDM) and Multi-code Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (MCDSSS).
Wi-LAN had received revenues for the licensing of their wireless patents with at least 34 companies, including previous telecommunication companies such as Philips Semiconductor, Research In Motion (RIM), and Nokia.
Both the WOFDM patent and the MCDSSS patent became widely used in the Wifi (IEEE 802.11a/g/n), 3G (H and H+), and 4G (WiMAX) networks.
WOFDM was filed for patent in 1992 with the United States Patents and Trademark Office, and the patent was granted in 1994, whereas the MCDSSS patent was filed in 1992 and was finally approved in 2002. Dr. Hatim Zaghloul has filed over 20 patents which were approved.
Essentially, their technologies enabled wireless data transmission over the cellular mobile networks as well as over wireless local access networks (LAN) for computers.
Halalop Editor, Shahfizal Musa, spoke with Dr. Hatim, about his success and his current project.
Dr. Hatim grew up in Egypt and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Cairo University. After three years of working in an oil and gas company, he then left to further his studies.
“I went to Canada to do my Master’s degree and PhD in Physics, and stayed there for 25 years.” Dr. Zaghloul obtained his Masters and PhD from Calgary University, Canada.”
“I was finishing my PhD in 1989, and the phone company in the province in Canada, named Alberta Government Telephones, at that time, hired me. They later changed their name to Telus and now they are the biggest operator in Canada. They hired me as a researcher and gave me a task to decide which second telephone generation 2G to use. Because back then it was analogue technology, 1G.”
“I had been [studying] physics for ten years. I told them I needed help from an engineering background, and I had a friend with a PhD in engineering who could do it. Dr. Michel Fattouche. He is my friend from school. Michel agreed [to join], and he started studying the problem. We got very lucky.”
Both Dr. Zaghloul and Dr. Fattouche were Egyptians who later took on Canadian citizenship.
“Telus, the phone company I was working for, bought Novotel, the largest mobile operator in the world at the time. Suddenly, I became the key scientist for Novotel deciding what to do in 2G. So it became a big project.”
“Now it was getting into the nitty-gritty of telephones. I had 24 PhD holders working with me. We studied the six available technologies and concluded GSM was the best technology. But, at the end of the report, I insisted to put all these technologies are bad.”
“I explained because the maximum speed was 250 kilobits per second (kbps). Back then we were doing speeds of 600 bits per second, but I told them if the users tasted on the mobile, the speed of 250 (kbps), they’ll get excited and want much more.”
“You can’t give the user [the speed of] 250 kbps and say this is it.”
“They said, ‘we don’t have anything better. It was impossible to do more than that.”
“So, the phone company told me don’t work on the mobile anymore. Go and do services, as the company is a phone operator.”
“[Dr.] Michel [Fattouche] took it to heart, and kept telling me, he knows of a technology that can do better.”
However, it took Dr. Zaghloul nine months before he sat down with Dr. Fattouche to discuss the new technology, which was the OFDM. “I understood it when he explained it, and I realized there were obvious problems with the technology.”
“We discussed it and in twenty minutes, we came up with the solution, right there. We introduced two solutions to obvious problems of high speed wireless mobile communications. What we did is used in every high-speed technology now.”
“Wireless OFDM is used in 3G, LTE, 4G, 5G and 6G. The core technology we worked with is at the heart of telecommunications,”
“Before our patents, the mentality was we do voice calls and on the voice calls, you do a modem. But we envisioned that is gonna end and we’re gonna have the voice over the modem, not the other way around. That we’re doing data so that voice over data, not data over voice. So that was what happened.”
“But I don’t say that we invented the concept of everything over data. Others were talking about it. People were talking theoretically, but we made it possible to have 300 to 400 Mbps. And that opened the door to everything.”
“But we did envision we’d be talking to things, like the Internet of Things (IoT). We did envision the world as we see it today. It is exactly as we wrote in the introduction of our patent. Exactly how things are now are in our patent.”
To determine whether Dr. Zaghloul’s claims of their vision of the IoT way back in 1992, when internet dial-ups were the norm, we checked their patents to see if the patents were written as such. Google has archived the approved patents, and we found the following:
This patent document presents a new multiple access technique for Personal Communication Networks (PCN). Personal communication networks are networks that allow individuals and equipment to exchange information with each other anywhere at anytime through voice, data or video. PCN typically include a number of transceivers, each capable of transmitting and receiving information (voice, data or video) in the form of electromagnetic signals. The transceivers may be fixed or portable, and may be identical or one or more of them may be more complex.Summary of W-OFDM Invention, US Patent, US5282222A
In 2006, WiLAN changed its business model from R&D and commercializing its patent technology, to refocus on licensing patents and intellectual property (IP) rights. This led to Dr. Zaghloul to step down from his CEO position in the company.
“Now I’m focused on building companies. I started more than 17 companies, and I took seven of them public on the stock exchange. That’s my area, more than running a company.”
Dr. Zaghloul is currently the founder of Inovatian, a company that works on 6G with blockchain technology. He aims to change communications again with new technologies, and tackle the problem of the world’s growing digital divide.
“Half of the world has never seen communications nor the internet. It’s a complicated problem, and 90% because it is too expensive.”
“The reason it’s expensive is because when you build a communications network, and to this day, it’s based on having a central office, and connecting people to the central office. That central office has very expensive equipment, and in a sparsely populated area, of say 15,000 people, it’s not worth it.”
“Because of that, half the world doesn’t have communications. The problem is compounded. Not having communications makes them very poor.”
“We need to change that. We need communications to be decentralized. As soon as you say decentralized, blockchain comes to mind. So instead of the data having a centralized office, we have distributed it over blockchain servers.”
“The blockchain servers are small, cost only around USD1,000. Wifi network will cost another USD1,000. Switches and so on, a third USD1,000. If we introduce our own power supply, that will cost another USD2,000. So for USD5,000 we can operate an autonomous network and cover 15,000 people.”
“For the connection, we can get it from satellite, V-Sat, or other satellites, such as Elon Musk’s satellite. We can get the communications to them, that’s not the problem. The problem is the distribution on the ground.”
“Right now we are doing trials in Pakistan and Egypt. We plan to launch in Chad very soon, inshallah.”
Also Read: The Amazing Similarity of Blockchain and Islam in order to understand the basics of blockchain technology.
“A speaker in a conference once said that if you don’t own your own data, you won’t exist in five years. And I believe it’s true.”
“It’s very important to own our own data, and very important to own our own technologies.”
“I was asked by a Muslim country to give them a lecture on cybersecurity. I told them you’re using someone else’s technology, someone else’s software and hardware, and then you want to protect yourself from him?”
“You’ve got to put a plan to put develop your own technologies, and after that, you talk about cybersecurity.”
Shahfizal then asked Dr. Zaghloul about the 6G mobile phones that Inovatian be developing.
“While we are decentralizing the network, we are centralizing mobile phones. We need phones that have smart capabilities but only cost less than USD15-USD20. Most of the capabilities of the 6G phones will be on the blockchain server, not on the phone.”
“The blockchain will be very protected. We’ve developed our own blockchain from scratch. We’re not using Ethereum or Bitcoin. We’re using our own blockchain. We wrote every line of code.”
Inovatian’s blockchain is called Inochain.
“We hope our Muslim countries will use it and will become a standard in Muslim countries.”
We asked Dr. Zaghloul on why he started his new project from Egypt, instead of Canada, where he found success with Wifi.
“I want to bring the pride back home, and instil pride in Arabs and Muslims. We need to take our rightful place in the world.”
Halalop Editor’s Note: Do you know of our modern-day Muslim scientists who are making an impact in the world today? Meet them here:
Farah Ishak is a Content Writer at Halalop. She grew up in the United Kingdom where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Management. Later, she completed her MBA and held senior-level positions in Malaysian based MNC. She left the corporate world to be with her young kids. She is passionate about issues concerning Muslim women, Startups and Muslim businesses in general.
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