New research lab fosters collaboration on 5G transport

Categories: Technology

With two partners, Ericsson has launched the Kista 5G Transport Lab to enable the 5G transport network to deliver near-ubiquitous connectivity and be a platform for service innovation.

Ericsson has opened the Kista 5G Transport Lab in conjunction with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and the research institute Acreo Swedish ICT in an innovative collaboration aimed at spurring new advances within network transport infrastructure – a key to fulfilling the promise of 5G networks and the Networked Society.

As the telecom and IT industries converge, the communications landscape is fast becoming user-driven, with the mass adoption of mobile broadband driving network transformations that call for optimizing transport, routing and services in the backhaul network.

At the same time, access networks are becoming more varied and complex and will soon comprise a mix of current technologies, 5G, LTE Advanced, Wi-Fi and hybrids, plus wired connections. Specifically, future 5G transport networks must be able to deliver the connectivity needed for expanded user services and cloud connectivity, and serve as a platform for service innovation.

In the new lab, which is based in Kista, Sweden and was launched in late January, Ericsson, Acreo and KTH are working toward structural and architectural changes that go beyond even today’s state-of-the-art networks and look toward the advent of 5G in approximately 2020. Researchers will be addressing dynamic operation on all network layers, common transport of traffic from mobile and fixed accesses, and integration of network management with services and applications.

“We want to show how programmable transport networks can be a platform for applications, user services and network services” says Peter Öhlen, Principal Researcher, IP & Transport, at Ericsson Research. “Mission-critical applications need to have end-to-end reliability on both the radio and transport layer. Both layers can cater to the needs of new applications, and we see that a single common transport network should be able to support cloud and radio requirements.”

Öhlen says the new lab is a way to shorten the time between cutting-edge research and getting products to customers.

“We have an underlying belief that proximity simplifies contacts and supports innovation better,” he says. “Our partners are working just three minutes away from us. We wanted to take advantage of that. Also, this kind of collaboration allows us to expand our view of what’s happening in long-term research in this area.”

Acreo and KTH are both leaders in transmission and networking research, and the project's value is partly based on developing a new type of cooperation framework between universities, institutes and industry, specifically driven by demonstrations.

Within the project, Acreo and KTH researchers and PhD students will contribute concept evaluations, simulations, design and implementation for prototypes, while Ericsson will ensure that the work has long-term industrial relevance. The project is party funded by the VINNOVA, the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems.

“The Kista 5G Transport Lab offers an excellent opportunity to expose our graduate students to high-level industry research,” says Lena Wosinska, a professor in the KTH School of Information and Communication Technology. “On the other hand, it gives us a chance to utilize our broad expertise to solve real problems and to face future challenges. This is a great platform for collaboration between KTH, Ericsson and Acreo, and it's very exciting to be building the networks of the future together.”

The lab has about 10 full-time researchers and staff split equally between the three partners, with Ericsson hosting the lab environment. The current scope is for two years, though this could be extended to three to five years.

The overall goal is to develop a prototype demonstrating a fully automated process from application to setup of the optical interface in the end equipment and a network connection. Within that scope, the specific focus for the first year will be the evolution of a Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing-centric aggregation and metro network solution – plus small cell monitoring – that addresses three main topics: network flexibility, network programmability, and network performance.

"Ambitious and long-term collaborations like this prove the willingness of all the partners to make a difference, both for the Kista ecosystem and in developing conditions for world-class research,” says Anders Berntson, a department manager at Acreo with expertise in broadband technology. “This will have effects that go far beyond the research itself."