Dr Andrew Viterbi, mobile communications pioneer and co-founder of  Qualcomm  will visit the Royal Academy of Engineering in London on Thursday 13 October to receive one of the Academy’s highest accolades, the  International medal  from the Academy’s Senior Vice President Sir William Wakeham.

Dr Viterbi will also discuss the impact of his work on the evening of 13 October in conversation with engineer and broadcaster Dr Mark Miodownik.

Having developed an interest in engineering at a young age, Andrew Viterbi studied electronics and electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After graduation, he moved to California, where he earned a Ph.D. in digital communications from the University of Southern California. He then went on to teach communications theory at the University of California, Los Angeles, and consulted at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology.

In 1967, whilst at UCLA, he invented the  Viterbi algorithm  to unscramble encoded data. This was a breakthrough in wireless technology that separated information (voice and data) from background noise. All four international standards for 3G digital cellular communications as well as most digital satellite communications systems use the Viterbi Algorithm meaning virtually every cell phone today uses it to perform interference suppression and efficient decoding of digital transmission sequences. It is also used in many other applications including speech recognition and DNA sequencing.

In 1968 he cofounded Linkabit Corporation and in 1985 was one of the founders of Qualcomm Inc. where he made important contributions to Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), the wireless technology which transformed the theory and practice of digital communications. His efforts did much to establish CDMA as the multiple access technology of choice for mobile phones and wireless data.

In 2008, he was awarded the National Medal of Science for developing the Viterbi Algorithm and for his contributions to CDMA wireless technology. The medal is a Presidential Award given to individuals deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences. In the same year, he was also selected as a finalist for the prestigious Millennium Technology Prize.

Viterbi currently serves as president of the Viterbi Group, an equity investment fund he established in 2000. The Viterbi Group advises and invests in early stage and emerging companies that are pioneering innovative technologies in the areas of wireless communications; network infrastructure; and image, optical and signal processing.

Notes for editors

  1. In conversation with Andrew Viterbi will be held at 6 for 6.30pm on Thursday 13 October 2011 at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace:
    Download the flyer (128.55 KB)
  2. Technology visionaries: a series of lectures on the making of the digital world

    Over a century and a half ago, Charles Babbage published the concept of the first digital computer which he sought to construct as a mechanical machine. A century later by the onset of World War II, the necessary electrical infrastructure had been developed, and a number of machines were built, initially in support of the war effort and later for scientific and business applications. From these modest beginnings, the subsequent six decades have witnessed the technological evolution which now impacts practically everyone on the planet. Shortly after the end of the war all the theoretical underpinnings were in place: solid state physics, leading to massive device integration needed for compact and affordable infrastructure, the mathematical principles underlying computer architecture, design and software as well as the theory of information and communication. Over time most enterprises, whether private or public, saw their operations digitally reconstructed. It took a few more decades for the technology to impact on consumers. Though this began 30 years ago with the first PCs, it was not until personal two-way communication via the internet, both wired and wireless, that humankind became digitally interconnected. The cultural, social and political consequences are currently transforming our lives in novel and unexpected ways.
  3. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton