Applied Physics

Telecommunications/ICT for Development Laboratory

Bridging the digital divide


Aeronomy is an interdisciplinary field of science that deals with the physics and chemistry of the upper atmosphere of the Earth and other planets under the effects of magnetic fields and electromagnetic and corpuscular radiation from space.

The scientists at T/ICT4D Aeronomy Unit study and develop 3D and time dependent global electron density models in the ionosphere. One of these, the NeQuick model that has been developed in collaboration with the University of Graz, Austria, is continuously upgraded and improved. This model is widely used internationally for scientific purposes and also to determine ionospheric effects on satellite navigation and positioning systems (GNSS).

Other research topics of the Unit are:

  • Ionospheric data ingestion into electron density models to produce 3D specification of the ionosphere.
  • GNSS radio-occultation data inversion to obtain electron density profiles in the ionosphere.
  • Analysis of ionospheric data of different sources and model validation.


The NeQuick model has been adopted by the International Telecommunication Union, Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) Recommendation P. 531-9 as a suitable method for TEC modeling.

The NeQuick model has been used by the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) of the European Space Agency (ESA) for system assessment analysis. For such objective a series of ionospheric scenarios have been created.

The NeQuick model has been adopted as the model for ionospheric corrections in the single frequency operation of the European GALILEO satellite navigation system.

International collaboration

The ICTP has signed in 2009 a MoU with Boston College of the United States of America to promote, through the Telecommunications/ICT for Development Laboratory, activities related to satellite navigation science and technology in Africa. Towards this objective training activities are being organized and carried out in Trieste and in Africa. A series of collaborations have started with research groups in African universities towards the implementation of joint research activities in this field.

Other collaborations are active with Research Institutions of: Italy, Russia, Spain, Argentina, Cuba, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cotè d'Ivoire, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya and Rwanda.


The Radio Communications Laboratory develops wireless solutions for academic institutions in developing countries. They organize training activities, manage projects and carry out research to find the best solutions to bridge the digital divide.


  • Training: Since 1995, the Radio Communications Laboratory has held some 40 training activities attracting more than 1600 participants, from Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe and Americas as well as from international organizations. Close collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Development Bureau (ITU-BDT) and with the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) has been developed.
  • Project management: We have managed projects to connect universities and medical centres in Malawi, to connect environmental sensors in the Venice lagoon and to set up very long wireless links.
  • Dissemination: We participated in the writing of "Wireless Networking in the Developing World". This freely downloadable book is available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic. The goal of the book is to help everyone get the resources they need to build wireless networks that solve real communication problems.

Our main interest is in ICT4D: how to use information and communication technologies to help development of academic networks. In particular, we have been working on:

  • Long Distance Wireless Links: In collaboration with ESLARED (La Fundación Escuela Latinoamericana de Redes) in Venezuela, we setup some experiments and testbeds to test long wireless links. In particular, a s 297 km link has been successfully deployed in Venezuela and a 130 km testbed has been installed connecting ICTP to Monte Cesen.
  • Wireless Sensor Networks for Development: Wireless Sensor Networks are a very promising technology, allowing a very fine-grained measurement of physical phenomena. We are focusing out research on the application of this technology in development projects.
  • Low-cost solutions for wireless links setup: Setting up a wireless link, especially at long distance, requires very expensive equipment. We are studying how to use low-cost solutions to setup wireless link.

International Collaboration

Most of our activities are organized in collaboration with the International Telecommunication Union-Telecommunication Development Bureau (ITU-BDT).

The ITU-BDT was established to help spread equitable, sustainable and affordable access to information and communication technologies (ICT) as a means of stimulating broader social and economic development.

In 2007 agreement with NIT, the National Institute of Telecommunications, of Poland (in polish: Instytut Lacznosci) in the field of radiocommunication science and technology was signed, with particular emphasis on the development of information and communication technologies.


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