Of all the scientific innovations of the past quarter-century, information and communications technology (ICT) has changed the day-to-day lives of ordinary people around the world in the most dramatic and obvious way. The Internet might be the most powerful driving force of this change, but we have innovations in networking to thank for bringing it to our desks, laps and pockets – the work of a host of pioneers whose innovations help us every day when we use computer and telephone networks to connect to online resources or to each other.
Dr. Patrick Hosein is such a pioneer, one of the many engineers behind the scenes who enabled the phenomenal rise in global connectivity. In the United States, he is best known for his patented work, having spent most of his career developing innovative engineering solutions at internationally renowned laboratories such as Bell Laboratories, AT&T Laboratories and later at Ericsson and Huawei. While at these companies, he used his expertise in a wide range of areas (mathematical optimization, performance analysis, system modeling and simulation, algorithm design and implementation, etc.) to develop novel algorithms for several products, applications and services for telephone networks and broadband cellular networks. For the people of Trinidad and Tobago, his contribution has been both more personal and more direct – he is the visionary that brought the Internet to the country and he continues to manage its .tt domain name.
Born in 1960 in Curepe, Trinidad to Amizool and Merle Hosein, an accountant and housewife respectively, Patrick Hosein grew up with his three sisters and brother. Attending the Curepe Presbyterian School, he began as an average student. However, with the prodding of his strict but effective Common Entrance teacher, Mr. Steve Oudit, and the encouragement of his highly supportive parents, Hosein earned his way into St. Mary’s College.
As a teenager, he often visited the house of a neighbor in Crescent Gardens, D’Abadie who repaired electronics, and whose daughter was his girlfriend. It was there that he first developed his own interest in electronics, prompted in part by his (and her) love of music. With parental funding, he built his first audio amplifier using a Heathkit purchased from the US. His father also gave him the money for speaker components and took him to a local lumberyard where he bought the wood to design and build his own speaker system at the age of thirteen. Little could they have imagined that the birth of this humble hobby marked the beginning of what would become for Hosein a lifelong fascination with electronic technology and lead to a distinguished career at the cutting edge of developments in this field.
At St. Mary’s College, he was taught by academic legends like Frs. Lai Fook and Valdez. He was quite the “limer” though, refusing to be left behind when his older siblings attended house parties, with his skill at building speakers serving his DJ friends very well! Though Hosein did well in class, he was not a top performer until his last year of A’ Levels when he won the mathematics scholarship in 1979. Not expecting a scholarship, he had not applied to universities abroad, so he was forced to take a year off, during which time he taught at St. Joseph’s College. He left for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) the following year where he spent the next 12 years, at the end of which he had attained five degrees: a bachelor of science in mathematics and one in electrical engineering (obtained simultaneously because of the four years allowed by his scholarship); a master of science in electrical engineering and computer science (also sponsored by his scholarship); an electrical engineer’s degree (an advanced degree designed for practitioners rather than researchers) and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science. These were exciting times, as he was challenged by his work and research, competing with top students from around the world. At the same time, Hosein was becoming a family man, having married Deborah Vincent and having his son, Nicholas, while doing his Ph.D and his daughter, Patricia, soon after graduation.
At MIT, he twice served as a teaching assistant for, and in the summer of 1982 an intern for, the eminent Prof. Amar Bose who developed the line of world-famous BOSE speakers. Hosein was awed to be working under this towering icon – an innovator whose most celebrated creative output had emerged from his dedication to what he loved. Bose was a great lover of classical music, and his desire to reproduce more faithfully, through electronic systems, the acoustics of a concert hall, led him to create the speakers. The professor echoed the sentiments of his intern’s parents when he encouraged Hosein to pursue a field that would bring him the most personal fulfillment rather than the most money.
After MIT, Hosein was employed by the world renowned Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, conducting research on large-scale optimization and routing problems, thereby aiding Bell with its computer-based telephone switching systems. In 1991, he returned to Trinidad as an assistant professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of The University of the West Indies (UWI), where he introduced and designed courses for a new Master of Science (MSc) in Communication Systems. With the aid of NIHERST, Hosein initiated the process for the university to obtain Internet access from the Organization of American States (OAS) via a dial-up telephone connection to Puerto Rico. He quickly became one of the most vocal advocates for Internet access in Trinidad, but unfortunately among many naysayers. At that time, the .tt domain was still controlled by the OAS and managed by the University of Puerto Rico. Hosein ardently believed that Trinidad and Tobago possessed the expertise to manage the domain and, when the OAS asked him (on behalf of Jon Postel, one of the prime developers of the Internet) to manage it, he willingly accepted the voluntary position. While in Trinidad, he formed a team (which included Dr. Feisal Mohammed and students Kevin Blackman, Ronald Lessey and Jason Arneaud) that, in collaboration with a team from IBM headed by Simon Fraser, bid and were awarded the contract to set up the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) as the first Internet service provider (ISP) in Trinidad, writing all necessary software (including accounting and billing software). The competitors for this project were all foreign based which made the success of the bid even more rewarding.
In 1995, Hosein returned to Bell Laboratories in New Jersey where he worked on routing, overload control, congestion control and load balancing algorithms for AT&T’s telecommunications network, including support for the newly proposed Local Number Portability service. He greatly enjoyed his time at Bell Laboratories and subsequently at AT&T Laboratories to which he moved after Lucent was spun-off. At both Laboratories he had the tremendous privilege to collaborate with several world-renowned experts and acquired the analytical expertise that he would later use when working in the cellular industry.
Due in part to “difficulty” with New Jersey’s harsh climate, Hosein moved to California in 2000. Settling in San Diego, he joined Ericsson Inc. as a principal engineer, working on and leading teams in the design of radio and network resource management algorithms for wireless networks – theoretically similar to his research in New Jersey, but with differences enough that this new posting demanded its share of required study before he could tackle it. His focus was on more efficient utilization of resources for data transmissions, especially when carrying voice information (Voice over IP). At Ericsson, he helped develop cutting-edge cellular technologies, also contributing to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2) standards body which, at that time, was working on global standards for CDMA 3G networks. In 2004, the San Diego office nominated him for the Ericsson Inventor of the Year Award, a true honour in his eyes, considering the worldwide competition.
In 2005, the Chinese company, Huawei, absorbed many of Ericsson’s employees after the closure of the latter’s San Diego office. Hosein turned down offers to work elsewhere, instead entering employment with Huawei as Principal Engineer. It was a more formal work environment in many ways but, once he proved himself, he was allowed to work from home as he had done at Ericsson. There, he continued assisting with 3GPP WCDMA standards, and developed network and radio resource management algorithms for Huawei’s WiMAX and LTE wireless products, even winning the Huawei US Wireless Research Employee of the Year award in 2007. However, this job, which often took him to China for meetings, would not last forever. In 2010, Huawei San Diego closed its doors as part of a greater downsizing initiative across the US. Like Ericsson before them, they offered him a job at other locations but, having other personal plans, he turned them down.
Hosein then returned to AT&T, where he continued working on next-generation LTE (Long Term Evolution, better known as “true” 4G) cellular technology – which had been part of his portfolio at Huawei – improving the quality of the company’s mobile service and the general performance of its LTE networks. However, with his children no longer at home, and with the increasing use of ICT in Trinidad, he decided to return to Trinidad and contribute to its development. With some apprehension, he resigned from AT&T and returned to UWI, where he is a senior lecturer in computer science. His present duties include a complete re-design of the department’s MSc in Computer Science degree.
Hosein has authored or co-authored over 75 refereed publications and has 34 granted and 41 pending patents in various areas of ICT. After 20 years, he remains the manager of the .tt domain, although since 1995, he has done so as the founding CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre, a company responsible for the registration and administration of Internet domain names in Trinidad and Tobago. This company also provides free domain and hosting for all Trinidad and Tobago educational institutions, sponsors scholarships and prizes for UWI students, sponsors many ICT related events (e.g. ISOC, TTCS, the DCIT Computing Bootcamp, etc.), and conferences such as Caribbean DevCA, Startup Weekend, Code Sprint, etc.
Hosein spends the summer period in San Diego with his family. He packs a lot into his spare time – hiking, swimming, biking, running and kayaking. He also enjoys interacting with his UWI students in person but also via social media since, like them, he tends to work at nights. Since he manages the hosting of school sites, he also dedicates quite a bit of time to these schools, which he finds very rewarding. From a professional point of view, he continues to focus on advanced wireless research and is collaborating with a team at Intel on 5G networks. He is also working on more practical projects with more immediate results in areas such as smart grids, ICT in agriculture and open data initiatives.
Looking back at his career path, Hosein affirms that, “I made good educational choices and I truly love my work. I have encouraged my children to do the same and follow careers that they will enjoy. My advice to young people is to determine your passion, obtain the education needed to pursue this passion and the rest will fall into place. In the past, the opportunities for educating oneself outside of the traditional school system were quite limited. Today, one can find resources online to supplement what is taught in school or to even learn completely new areas on your own. Take advantage of these opportunities to find the most efficient medium to educate yourself since the traditional medium is not optimal for all, and to expand into areas of interest not covered in your classroom. Make the sacrifices now rather than making them in the future by having to work in a boring career.”