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Communication Infrastructure Technologies and Devices

 

The work covers technological progress in optical technologies, NTN technologies, IoT and short-range communication with specific focus on:

  • Flexible Capacity Scaling: The work addressed fundamental technologies on backhaul and long-haul networks able to reach rates of 10 Terabit/s optoelectronic Interfaces and multi-Petabit/s for optical fibre systems, operating at symbol rates of more than 100 GBauds, with viable transportation per bit cost especially for high demand multimedia services. It includes the flexible exploitation of new wavelength bands with progress in a wide range of technologies such as optical amplifiers, opto-electronics devices, and sub-systems. Techniques to safeguard optical network infrastructure against data leakage and unexpected service outages, improving system reliability are in scope.
  • Ultra-high Energy Efficiency: Develop novel switching optical architectures and new routing protocols, and design new semantic description and information models allowing the control of such optical networks, moving into essentially full-optical transport and control systems, considering new control mechanisms that optimise traffic flows across network layers, particularly if combined with optical space and wavelength switching, and bypass energy-hungry electronic functions.
  • Integration of Optical and Wireless Technologies from 2 different perspectives: i) technologies enabling the coexistence of fronthaul and backhaul networks and supporting end-to-end, wireless, and all-optical networks. This covers possible redesign of the backhaul/fronthaul application space such as packet switching with new packet friendly fronthaul interfaces in scenarios where many users generate a low amount of traffic data each, or multi-user mode (MU-MIMO) with an interoperable solution (Layer 2 and 3), reliability, durability, and energy efficiency; ii) in applicability of advanced light related technologies such as LEDs (light-emitting diodes), lasers, outdoor point-to-point devices (FSO — Free Space Optics), point-to-multipoint commercial applications (Li-Fi — Light Fidelity) or between devices (OCC – Optical Camera Communication) and Fiber Wireless Fiber (Fi-Wi), for the design of novel communication schemes, system architectures and protocols, in order to fully integrate these technologies in the communication infrastructure.
  • NTN infrastructures: A reference network architecture may be composed of a unified terrestrial and NTN multi-dimensional and multi-layered infrastructure, composed of space-borne and air-borne flying nodes possibly interconnected by means of wireless and optical links, to guarantee seamless and continuous connectivity. More importantly, the envisaged constellation would be structured hierarchically, i.e. flying nodes operating at different altitude and offering user centric coverage. Moreover, the flying nodes may also act as smart edge nodes by implementing storage and computation capabilities to pre-process and store large sets of information, eventually helping to reduce data rate requirements, increase energy efficiency, and guarantee end-to-end network connectivity. Based on the aforementioned network architecture, the focus of the activity will be the design of a novel concept for the seamless integration of NTN and terrestrial networks, with special emphasis on the design of a unified RAN, whose environmental sustainability should be properly addressed in all design implications. In this perspective, the main outcome of the activity will be three-fold. First, the activity should carry out the design of users’ antennas for the effective convergence of existing and future wireless networks with NTNs, hence relying also on low-cost flexible beam steering for NGSO satellite constellations and federated beamforming for satellites swarm. Second, a unified waveform will be developed by considering the peculiarities of both terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks (e.g. propagation impairments, doppler effects, delay). Third, horizontal/vertical handover procedures will be developed to allow for the seamless convergence between the envisioned networks, by building on novel cooperation schemes between the terrestrial and the envisioned flying nodes that may implement software defined payload for smarter and more energy-efficient coordination operations in space. The edge capability of flying nodes is also expected to be investigated to find out a trade-off between reduced data rate/increased energy efficiency and operational constraints (limited mass, power, storage) of flying nodes.
  • Integrated NTN service provision: Focus is on multi-layered NTN infrastructure service operations supporting service ubiquity, flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency, towards realisation of satellite-as-a-service. The work covers software-based non-terrestrial networks allowing full orchestration of the infrastructure resources such as power, bandwidth, time, space dimensions, node, coverage, and topology for a more flexible and dynamic system with overall better performance, efficiency, and sustainability. A software focus, disaggregation, and virtualization considering the ground and non-terrestrial segment, and their specific constrains are in scope. It should enable edge computing in space with computation and caching. Intelligent and autonomous resource management is sought, towards zero delay infrastructure reconfiguration, optimum orchestration of the infrastructure/service resources, dynamic spectrum management, beamforming and physical layer selection and optimization also by means of AI/ML strategies.
  • New IoT components and devices: The work targets the complex task of deployment and management of a large set of distributed devices with constrained capabilities, including components (micro-electronic components) and devices mainly for IoT and vertical sector applications as essential elements of future secure and trusted networks. The focus of the components and devices is on the requirements for the development of ultra-low power IoT (including self-powered and energy harvesting devices), extended to Tactile IoT components and on-IoT device AI techniques and methods. The research may also address IoT device management networking and service techniques that are adapted to the evolving distributed architectures for IoT systems based on an open device management ecosystem.
  • Troposphere Networking: The work addresses Tropospheric Networking as the new network serving all the “things” between the ground and ~15 Km altitude and focus on control and communication services for the drone, urban air mobility (future urban transportation systems that move people by air), balloon, aircraft, etc. Application scenarios covering both airplanes and UAVs should be defined and both data and control requirements identified. Solutions that rely on novel device to device (D2D), mesh, and cellular solutions for different types of mobility nodes may be considered, including approaches for unified RAN cellular (or cell free) coverage for both air and ground coverage, including high altitude dynamic beam steering, and efficient network level mobility management. This topic has a transformative potential for the infrastructure strand in general, and is considered particularly challenging if supported only by terrestrial technologies.
  • New Physical Layers and associated protocols: 6G networks are expected to operate over all types of communications, in multiple contexts. Research is sought on promising strategies to revolutionary new mechanisms for short range networks, technologies that expand the current limitations of cabled media, and technologies that provide low-power answers to interconnection of multiparty IoT resources.
  • Nano-Things Networking: The work addresses technologies to extend connectivity towards micro things, towards the realisation of nano-communications extending the reach of smart control to the level of small/tiny things, including molecules and cells. Materials with software-defined electromagnetic behaviour constitute applications t, paving the way for programmable wireless environments. The focus is on nanomaterials and nano-network architecture components (nodes, controllers, gateways) opening new prospects of usage of nano-scale things. At the PHY Layer, graphene antennas enable nano-communication within the 0.1 - 10 THz spectral window, which promises unprecedented communication data rates despite the nano-scale. At the MAC Layer, pivotal protocols could target Body Area Network (BAN) applications notably for health and self-monitoring and adapting industrial materials. This topic is considered of potential transformative impact across the communication ecosystem.

Projects may address one or more of the above topics.