The UK’s 5G Innovation Centre was formally opened in its new building today on the University of Surrey campus. The centre is the result of £70 million worth of investment and houses 70 researchers and staff with a further 100 working within its industry partners.
Professor Rahim Tafazolli, who has led the development of 5GIC over the past three years, said that the centre was the first in the world of its kind, and would develop technology that would enable 5G applications and use cases.
Tafazolli identified a few goals.
1. To have “wrapped up all standards contributions” by 2016. Telefonica is helping identify areas and knowledge where 5GIC could contribute to specifications within 3GPP.
2. By early 2018 to have on site a fully working 5G technology test bed, including a 5G radio mobile broadband and IoT-friendly radio interface, and an integrated 5G core.
3. To spin off commercial vehicles to market the technology developed by 5GIC’s researchers. The centre is currently running 50 research projects, Tafazolli said.
The centre is not involved in developing technology for specific applications, he said, instead seeing itself as developing enabling technologies such as Massive MIMO, new waveforms and modulations and data analytics capabilities – technologies that would fit into new architectures. Tafazolli said the goal of 5G research is to create a communications generation that is 50x faster, 100x more reliable, 100x more energy efficient, and provides 1000x more capacity per square meter.
“5G needs to service from 2020 until at least 2040, so that is too long term to predict what it will be used for,” he said. “But you can think of 5G as the first generation of reliable connectivity”.
Building enabling technologies for 5G means developing networks and systems that can understand and serve user and device requirements in real time.
“Most important is the need for techniques to understand and capture user profiling and requirements in the network in real time,” Tafazolli emphasised. That in turn would mean that privacy and security of data would be extremely important.
Companies contributing to this area of 5GIC include TEOCO, with its SON and network analytics capabilities, Fujitsu, with its cloud-based analytics, and MycomOSI, which is providing its service assurance capabilities to the research centre.
Payam Taaghol, CEO of 5GIC partner company MycomOSI and a former post-grad student and teacher at the University of Surrey, said 5G would bring completely different assurance requirements in the network – requiring algorithms that could go beyond the usual KPI monitoring. MycomOSI is providing its assurance tools both so that researchers can monitor the behaviour of the test bed network, but also to understand what the assurance and monitoring requirements of 5G networks will look like in the future.
Steve Bowker, VP Technology and Strategy at TEOCO, another 5GIC partner, said that Self-Organising Network functionality is a key component in 5GIC’s attempts to define a network that can be aware of user and device requirements and optimise itself accordingly.
PART II – Research projects under way at 5GIC
5GIC displayed some of the projects it has been working on.
1. A joint BBC-Huawei project to deliver a 4K video stream over two sites that have been connected to a centralised and virtualised baseband, described by Huawei as Radio Computing Architecture – which appears essentially to be a non-CRPI based Cloud RAN architecture. You are looking at delivery of a radio signal over fibre to remote (two in this case) antennas that then send it on over the air to a mobile device consuming high bandwidth video.
2. Sparse Code Multiple Access – a new coding scheme that allows more devices to occupy the same spectrum. It may help in dense IoT/sensor use cases. Huawei’s demo showed that 4x the number of devices can connect in the same spectrum using SCMA.
3. Full Duplex: The 5GIC is part of the wider DUPLO project, which is looking at small form factor full duplex.
The test bed itself is formed of a macro and a series of outdoor and indoor (indoor includes TDD) small cells to form a highly dense environment. At the moment everything is LTE only but in time the idea is to turn the test bed into actual 5G tech.