Bishnu S. Atal

Bishnu S. Atal
Fields of study
Thomas Edison Patent Award, New Jersey Hall of Fame Inventor of the Year Award


Bishnu S. Atal’s pioneering research on speech coding for providing natural-sounding speech over digital devices has resulted in standards that lie at the heart of practically every mobile phone in use today. Speech coding employs signal-processing techniques to accurately model voice signals for producing high-quality speech while compressing the signals for bandwidth-efficient transmission. Dr. Atal pioneered linear predictive methods for speech coding, now known as “digital cellular,” which is considered one of the most important advancements in communications technology. His work has enabled wireless networks to use less spectrum space and fewer towers to aid in the mass deployment of digital cellular systems. This has played an important role in providing a wireless path to the information superhighway for countries lacking well-established fiber-optic infrastructures. Dr. Atal first developed linear predictive coding (LPC) and then code-excited linear prediction (CELP) techniques for efficient transmission of speech over digital networks. He demonstrated during the 1960s that LPC could represent the varying characteristics of human voice and encode the speech signal at a fraction of conventional methods for more efficient transmission. LPC quickly became the basis for military communication standards. Dr. Atal introduced the CELP method in 1985, and it is now used in practically all digital cellular speech standards as well as standards for digital voice communication over the Internet.

An IEEE Life Fellow and member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Atal’s many honors include the Thomas Edison Patent Award (1994) and the New Jersey Hall of Fame Inventor of the Year Award (2000). Dr. Atal is an affiliate professor with the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.