Future Networks : Connecting the Digital Society
As we are moving towards an information-driven society, increasingly relying on ICT tools, the development of a converged communication and service infrastructure that gradually will replace the current Internet, mobile, fixed, and audiovisual networks is fundamental.
The challenge of bringing forward the EU leadership in Research and Innovation for the Future Internet and communications Infrastructure is addressed by the Future Networks Objective of the European Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7).
The EU investment in Future Networks research is undertaken through collaborative projects, selected in highly competitive calls for proposals. The work is based on a cost-shared agreement between the European Commission and the consortia of EU leading industry, academia and research centres. A portfolio of more than 90 projects is grouped into a flexible set of clusters of common interest, to develop synergies and critical mass.
Research in communication networks has made possible several breakthroughs having a strong impact on people lives. Mobile communications and the Internet are two outstanding examples. Future networks' technologies, including mobile broadband and all optical networks are the key to the revolutionary innovations of tomorrow. It will enable us to design and build the Future Infrastructure interconnecting and empowering the Digital Society as ambitioned by the Digital Agenda for Europe.
The Future Networks research will deliver the next generation of network technologies enabling smart connectivity for all, anywhere, at any time at the highest speed and efficiency so as to meet an overwhelming demand by today's society.
ICT infrastructures become the new "blood system" and most future services will be connected services. This is why we need to enable a very fast Future Internet and ensure the EU citizens and businesses that they can access and use the most advanced content and services they call for.
Excellent EU research results and industrial leadership in networking technologies are instrumental for Europe to be a front runner in developing and deploying timely and viable solutions for highly performing ICT infrastructures.
This will help achieving a major promise of the Digital Agenda for Europe: ubiquitous access to broadband, supporting vital applications in our daily lives such as health, energy consumption, environment transport, entertainment or education to mention a few.
These applications are ever more demanding in terms of speed and connectivity so as to enable new features, such as instant access, real time interactivity, social media, HDTV, 3D or in the not so distance future virtual and immersive
The research on network technologies is essential for connecting and providing unlimited bandwidth for the future Digital Society. The target is the development of energy-efficient future network infrastructures that support the convergence and interoperability of heterogeneous mobile, wired and wireless broadband network technologies as enablers of the future Internet. This includes ubiquitous fast broadband access and ultra high speed end-to-end optical connectivity, supporting open services and innovative applications. Both totally novel and evolutionary approaches to network architectures need to be tackled. Taking due consideration of users and societal needs is a must for success.
Research in network technologies requires very significant investments for enabling our future networked society. While the technology itself develops faster and faster, the deployment and implementation of a new network infrastructure technology can take up to 10 years. As an example, we started R&D on "systems beyond 3G" in the early 2000, when the first 3G network was not even deployed. As a result, LTE (Long Term Evolution) emerged, now a very promising technology leading towards 4G systems which was funded with EU grants under the previous framework programme (FP6). Leading mobile operators and manufacturers around the world have already committed to using the LTE standard.
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