Ethernet Enables a Converged 5G Network

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University of Kent Demonstrates Ethernet’s 5G Efficacy —

A consortium of telecoms companies and academic institutions, led by the University of Kent, has achieved speeds of up to 5Gbps in a 5G test environment in a significant step towards the delivery of the next generation of high-speed mobile networks.

The experiment was part of the iCIRRUS (intelligent Converged network consolidating Radio and optical access aRound USer equipment) project that is designed to test technologies required to deliver future high-speed mobile networks. It is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program.

The consortium has been a global pioneer in the use of Ethernet in the fronthaul segment of a mobile access network where mobile signals are received at antennas and sent to fixed base station terminals.

In the test environment, based at the headquarters of iCIRRUS partner Telekom Slovenije, the team demonstrated transfer rates of 100 Gbps in the fronthaul network using the technology it has developed.

This technology was then able to deliver speeds of up to 5 Gbps to end-user devices in a 5G-type network, proving the system the consortium has designed is able to comfortably handle the huge amount of data being received at the fronthaul network before passing it to fixed backhaul fiber networks. The technology could also be used for 4G services as well, giving it backwards compatibility to existing networks.

In order to meet the goals of high spectral and energy efficiency demanded in future mobile/wireless networks, iCIRRUS proposed the combination of 2 key concepts:
• increased use of device-to-device (D2D) communications
• use of a centralized- or cloud- Radio Access Network (C-RAN)

These are integrated with a mobile Cloud which further contributes to the increased spectral and energy efficiency, and enhanced overall performance, through intelligent monitoring.

End users benefit from this evolution by experiencing increased device battery lifetimes; improved quality of experience through high-bandwidth, low-latency services; and added resilience by utilizing the mobile Cloud.

The novel feature of iCIRRUS is to enable a converged 5G network supporting legacy mobile and fixed line services based on Ethernet transport and switching. The use of Ethernet to support all categories of the mobile network infrastructure, including Fronthaul, Midhaul, and Backhaul (generally known as xhaul), is something which has been distinctly lacking in the network evolution toolbox to date.

Such a network infrastructure can dramatically reduce costs for operators and service providers, with the potential for these reductions to be passed on as lower prices for end users.

Using optical fiber Ethernet to support all categories of mobile infrastructure enables the possibility of a lower-cost fronthaul (or xhaul) due to the widespread use of Ethernet equipment.
• The use of Ethernet-based networking and virtual networking techniques in the fronthaul/xhaul, for flexible interconnection of Base station Baseband Units (BBUs)/Central Units (CUs) and Remote Radio Heads (RRHs)/Distributed Units (DUs).
• The possibility for a converged access network transporting both fixed line and mobile fronthaul/xhaul and backhaul user data.
• The use of standardized mechanisms over the common Ethernet fronthaul/midhaul transport for Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Operations, Administration, and Maintenance (OAM).
• Self-Optimizing Networks (SON) enabled by the use of smart optical hardware pluggable frame/packet inspection modules, to rapidly provide information to the intelligent processing.

Kent’s involvement in iCIRRUS is led by its School of Engineering and Digital Arts. As well as Telekom Slovenije, the other partners in the consortium include Adva Optical Networking, Heinrich Hertz Institute and IAF from Germany, operators Orange from France and Primetel from Cyprus, cloud service provider Wellness Telecom from Spain, and the University of Essex and Viavi Solutions from the UK. For more information, please visit http://www.icirrus-5gnet.eu/ and https://www.eda.kent.ac.uk. To watch a video of the wider iCIRRUS project, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jAX4J7-pOk&feature=youtu.be.

Established in 1965, the University of Kent, the UK’s European university, now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centers at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens, and Rome. It has been ranked 22nd in the Guardian University Guide 2018, and 25th in the Complete University Guide 2018, and in June 2017 was awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). For more information, please visit https://www.kent.ac.uk/about/.

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About Author

Dan Worth is Press Officer, University of Kent in the UK. For more information, please email d.worth@kent.ac.uk. Follow the University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent.

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