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Design of the European mobile network operator for research

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EuWireless (Design of the European mobile network operator for research)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-03-31

Mobile communication networks like the current 4G and 5G systems have become a key enabler for many solutions addressing the social challenges in the Horizon 2020 (health; demographic change and wellbeing; food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the Bio-economy; Secure clean and efficient energy; smart, green and integrated transport; climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials; Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies; and Secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens) and the mission of future Horizon Europe programs to succeed Horizon 2020. Various organizations, including H2020 5G Public Private Partnership (5G PPP) have identified the key role of mobile communications, especially 5G, for various verticals. The most relevant verticals identified are: eHealth, Factories of the future (Industry 4.0) Energy, Automotive, Media and Entertainment, Smart Cities, Emergency Response, and Telecoms, in general.

Research in the core technologies for mobile networks and/or research on any other vertical sector where mobile networks are enablers require access to state-of-the-art research infrastructures (RI). However, the needs of the research community in the area of mobile communication networks are not sufficiently covered by current medium-scale testbeds, usually deployed in research centres as indoor deployments, isolated from the commercial Mobile Network Operators (MNO) resources. Researchers in academia, researchers in companies, and fundamentally SMEs, finds difficult to access the needed infrastructures to support the development of product and services. Easy and effective access to RIs is essential to facilitate research activities that ensure advancement of knowledge and technology.

The project EUWIRELESS started 1st January 2018 with a duration of 27 months in a H2020 call for Research Infrastructures (RI). The main objective is designing a pan-European RI to connect the MNOs and the researchers in order to offer quick creation of specific testbeds adapted to the researcher’s requirements. Such RI could be managed by a European-level Operator, and could have some integration with other existing infrastructures in the communication networks domain, like GÉANT.
On the technical side, the project has defined the architecture of the RI based on Points of Presence that allow the deployment of EUWIREESS to cover different areas in an incremental way. The architecture, relays on some 5G key principles, like virtualization and network slicing, but also includes novel ideas towards user authentication, spectrum sharing, orchestration of resources in a multi operator context, and interaction with MNOs. The main concepts are demonstrated with several pilots, including one EUWIRELESS node at University of Malaga based on GÉANT Testbed Service (GTS), to be used for the creation of testbeds for connected cars.

As far as EUWIREESS is designing the infrastructure and the operator of such facility, the consortium made an exhaustive analysis of the regulations in Europe as the starting point to design the structure and governance of a legal entity that could work as the operator. Deliverable D3.3 “Governance and Legal Aspects” proposes several legal forms for an entity that could manage the new European research infrastructure, and the main conclusion is that the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) seems to be the most appropriate form. On top of the analysis of the legal entity, the project has produced an analysis of the financial and deployment aspects. Deliverable D3.2 “Deployment and Business Plan” proposes several deployment and operation scenarios. For instance, the consortium estimates 300M€ for one specific deployment on 5 countries in the next 10 years

All the deliverables compose a full design study as the starting point for a potential follow up project that implements a large scale demonstrator of EUWIRELESS. Networking in that direction was carried out in in events like EuCNC (the conference on Communication Networks by the European Commission), TNC (the conference of the GÉANT community), REDIRIS and NORDUnet conferences (two National Research Networks) or FUSECO (with the main H2020 projects related to 5G experimental platforms). The consortium had also discussions with the National Research Networks (NRENs), national contact points, ESFRI representative and regulators of the mobile networks. Key EUWIRELESS deliverables have been submitted as an input to the discussions in new spectrum sharing working group in RSPG (RADIO SPECTRUM POLICY GROUP) of the European Commission.
The design of the European research infrastructure for mobile network communications is a major step towards the creation of such research infrastructure. The design study is a valuable input for funding agencies and member states to consider the support to this initiative in their investment plans. This RI could impact the way that researchers and SMEs test and validate their technologies and services with an affordable cost, opening opportunities for new actors and enabling larger trials anywhere in Europe in cooperation with commercial Mobile Network Operators.
EuWireless concept