5G networks will foreseeably transform the way we relate to technology, because they will allow people to connect with their friends and acquaintances, but also with the objects that surround them, such as household appliances or the vehicles they use to get around. In order to achieve this digital interconnection of everyday objects - what's known as the Internet of Things - 5G networks must be capable of transporting a volume of data which is one thousand times greater than that of current 4G networks, at a much higher speed and with much lower energy consumption so as to minimise the environmental impact. In the very near future, we will be dealing with 5G both in our daily lives and in industrial environments (what is known as Industry 4.0)
"The international standardisation bodies have set requirements for 5G and its development which involve achieving maximum data rates for the user of tens of gigabits per second, with latencies (the sum of time delays within a network) as small as one millisecond and with up to one million devices connected per square kilometre, while at the same time reducing its energy consumption. In order to meet these ambitious targets, we need to come up with new solutions for transmission, managing radio resources, assessing applications by means of exhaustive simulations and developing prototypes which confirm the feasibility and improvement of the performance of these communications networks. This is what we shall be working on within the framework of the TeamUp5G project," explains its coordinator, Ana García Armada, head of the Communications Research Group and professor from the UC3M's Department of Signal Theory and Communications.
The TeamUp5G project is unique because part of it is devoted to research and another is devoted to training. In fact, it comprises a comprehensive European Training Network (ETN) for 15 new PhDs in signal processing and innovation of 5G mobile networks. "We are going to train future European leaders so that they are experts in 5G technologies. As well as gaining expertise about this technology, they will know how to create companies, they will be familiar with aspects concerning ethics and communication and they will have comprehensive capacities to advance the knowledge and create employment and prosperity in Europe," adds Ana García Armada.
This research ETN is seeking to find dynamic and novel solutions to three of the major challenges faced by 5G mobile networks: interference and waveform management, the reduction of energy consumption, and the dynamic management and optimisation of the spectrum. "The project focuses on 5G from a very transversal perspective, that is, starting with the most basic transmission technologies, looking at how the network is organised and even covering video applications and how to apply 5G in communication with drones," explains the research team.
Massive antennas, millimetre bands and small cells
On the one hand, the project is seeking to develop energy-efficient algorithms and protocols in order to improve the deployments of "small cells". A set of these small base stations allows us to obtain the same coverage as with the traditional highly powerful base stations, but with significant energy savings and in a much more sustainable manner. In addition, it allows us to increase the capacity of the network so that users can "navigate" with greater speed. However, in order to get these networks of small cells to work, we still need to solve certain technical problems which are being worked on within the framework of TeamUp5G.
On the other hand, they are also investigating the application of massive antennas (massive MIMO), which consists of using hundreds of antennas in base stations, a much larger number than what is currently the norm. "Paradoxically, all these antennas together can consume less than one on its own, and providing the same service. In addition to this energy saving, it has enormous advantages in terms of high capacity, in relation to the speed of user data and the number of simultaneous users that there may be in a certain area," explains Ana García Armada. The theoretical bases of this new idea are clear today, however a significant amount of technology (both hardware and software) needs to be developed so that its potential advantages come to fruition.
Lastly, the project is looking into the use of millimetre frequency bands in order to improve the use made of the electromagnetic spectrum. The scarcity of bandwidth in the frequencies traditionally used (which are shared so as to provide different services, such as television, security, GPS, WiFi, bluetooth, etc.), has led to the search for solutions in areas of the spectrum that had never been used for communications in mobility. "In the range of millimetre frequencies, between 30 and 300 GHz, in particular, there is a large amount of bandwidth available in order to enable new applications of enhanced video, augmented reality and virtual reality, among others. The use of these high frequencies involves many technical complications which need to be resolved and it is here where this project will look to contribute," explains the manager of the TeamUp5G project, Raquel Pérez Leal, researcher from the UC3M's Department of Signal Theory and Communications.
TeamUp5G, New RAN TEchniques for 5G UltrA-dense Mobile networks, is a project of the European Commission's Horizon 2020 programme which is being carried out, within the framework of the Marie Sk?odowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (reference number 813391), between the year 2019 and 2022. Under the coordination of the UC3M, 18 research institutes and companies from seven countries are participating: Denmark (Aarhus University); Greece (Alexander Technological Education Institute of Thessaloniki, University of Western Macedonia); Spain (LiPhi Technologies, NOKIA Spain SA - Bell Labs, Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, Telefónica Investigación y Desarrollo SA, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid); Norway (TELENOR ASA); Poland (Innovative Solutions Slawomir Pietrzyk); Portugal (AUDAX: Centro de Investigação e Apoio ao Empreendedorismo e Empresas Familiares, Instituto de Telecomunicações, ISCTE IUL: Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Projecto Desenvolvimento Manutenção Formação e Consultadoria, Universidade de Aveiro, Universidade da Beira Interior, Universidade Nova de Lisboa); and Switzerland (Eclexys SAGL).
More information at: http://teamup5g.webs.tsc.uc3m.es/
TeamUp5G. (Teaser) The UC3M is coordinating a European project for research and training in 5G mobile networks https://youtu.be/oMTdK2oR2M8
TeamUp5G: Interviews with researchers https://youtu.be/Cb6w1Ro2-2w