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Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technologies for Next Generation Ethernet

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TSNet (Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) technologies for Next Generation Ethernet)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2018-05-31

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) is a set of standards aimed at solving the emerging need for real time data transmission in Ethernet based networks, replacing several proprietary solutions.
TSN over Ethernet is being requested in multiple fields: automotive, industrial automation and 5G communications. Many industrial solutions are currently based on conventional Ethernet due to its ability to support very high bandwidths and its low cost. However, its non-deterministic nature (no real-time capabilities) makes it unsuitable for a growing number of applications where real-time communication is a critical requirement. In fact, many industrial automation applications today, such as motion control in discrete manufacturing, as well as radio data in wireless networks establish strict delay requirements to ensure that real-time data transmissions can support the application demands. The current solutions in the market adding real time capabilities to Ethernet networks include additional technical mechanisms such as protocol enhancements that are incompatible to each other and are expensive. Furthermore, these solutions are not capable to efficiently support high bandwidths, redundancy capabilities and advanced priority features. The result is a real-time Ethernet solution market that is severely fragmented, and simply won’t support future developments. Some of these developments include the need for increased bandwidth as well as higher information transparency between the field level and the enterprise level as advocated by trends such as Industry 4.0. TSN caters to these developments and represents the next step in the evolution of dependable and standardized industrial communication technology.
Comcores aims to pursue a major opportunity through maturation and demonstration of a disruptive set of Silicon Intellectual Property (SIP) cores which enable TSN over Ethernet networks, transforming the standard Ethernet from an “I’ll get it there as soon as I can” communications technology to one that provides timing guarantees for mission-critical applications. The main objective of this project was to assess the technical feasibility of Comcores SIP cores and to perform a deep analysis of the three most relevant markets to define a solid route-to-market plan and a commercialization strategy for large market uptake.
Providing TSN over Ethernet will bring important benefits to the 3 major application areas identified by Comcores – (i) Automotive, (ii) Industrial Automation; and (iii) 5G. These 3 areas are highly strategic for Europe and it is thus crucial to be at the forefront of technological developments to ensure high competitiveness.
The main activities of this project and the main results were:
1. To assess the feasibility of the technology to enable TSN on Ethernet networks.
The TSN functionalities of the IP cores were tested and validated in a demonstrator platform. Multiple patterns of data traffic were successfully tested and the use of TSN IP cores demonstrated the ability to keep jitter at a minimum compared to conventional Ethernet solutions. The IP cores are thus ready for commercialization.

2. To perform a detailed analysis of the three main market for our IP cores and select the most promising/relevant market.
Although TSN standardization initiative was initially driven from the use in industrial automation and Audio-Video-Broadcasting, the concept has recently attracted significant interest in wireless networks for 5G and in automotive for next generation control systems for automotive applications. Comcores IP solution is supporting recent standards specifically developed for fronthaul solutions in the 4/5G networks and for that reason Comcores is well-suited for the wireless network segment. For the automotive segment it is still unclear which feature set the industry will pursue and based on experience it seems as if this area is still at research stage. Thus, we have selected the 5G wireless network segment to target in our future activities.

3. To define a solid go-to-market strategy and a business plan.
A strategy to approach the 5G wireless networks market was developed. Our business plan will consist of selling end-products (communication gateways) which include our TSN IP cores rather than providing the IP cores to intermediate vendors such as ASIC vendors or sub-system suppliers. We have reached this conclusion by comparing the business cases for the gateways vs IP cores. Commercializing the IP cores is expected to generate substantially higher revenues and profits. Comcores strategy will rely on supply hardware products directly to communications operators using local distributors to reach this goal. This will require addition of new capabilities to the organization. Nevertheless, the management team in Comcores has prior top-level experience working from this position in the value chain. Furthermore, we expect to minimize impact by outsourcing all production and logistic handling to an EMS (Electronic Manufacturing Services). Comcores have already established contact with operators interested in TSN solutions for 10 and 25G Ethernet.

4. To analyze options for IP protection and establishment of a plan for the future developments.
We will protect our IP through secret knowledge, which is the most adequate method for such a complex technology involving software and digital technologies. Our products will be based on public available standards and it is expected that there won’t be limitations in the freedom to operate.

5. To plan the further activities to reach commercialization.
Over the 6 months of this SME Phase 1, Comcores planned the activities required to mature and demonstrate plug and play gateways to be used in the 5G wireless network infrastructures, by establishing dialogues with mobile operators interested in testing the technology. Comcores prepared a detailed plan of activities to apply to Phase II of SME Instrument. We are already disseminating our technology through direct dialogues with stakeholders and on events related to communications network.
Our ambition, supported by the SME Instrument, is to position Comcores for strong and continuous growth through the global commercialization of our technology to enable TSN over Ethernet. At this moment, Comcores is the only company in the market space offering stand-alone TSN IP’s for data rates above 1 Gbps and is as such the sole vendor on the IP market for high speed TSN MAC’s and switches. Nevertheless, Comcores have already identified a stronger business opportunity by providing the IP cores in the format of plug and play gateways rather than standalone IP cores, and we will therefore focus on this strategy to continue our activities. From the market analysis undertaken in the feasibility study, it seems clear that the wireless infrastructure segment represents the stronger business opportunity for our TSN solutions. This is due to the expected deployment of 5G in 2020 and thus the imminent need for solutions already in 2018 to be tested by operators.
At the end of the Phase 2 project, we expect to have the TSN gateways ready for commercialization. Our technology radically differs from competitors since it is not focused on a single standard or proprietary technology but rather on highly interoperable network equipment. The most important benefit of our technology relies on a cost-effective solution that will allow to use TSN over standard Ethernet overcoming the current limitations of the state-of-the-art protocols and using a flexible and non-proprietary technology. This will drastically accelerate the deployment of 5G infrastructures based on Ethernet networks, reducing significantly CAPEX and OPEX for mobile operators.
Our goal in the project (Phase 1 and 2) is to overcome prominent barriers that may hinder the successful market uptake of the technology. We aim to make mobile operators aware of the benefits and functionality of our technology by performing demonstrations and showcases. As market confidence and Comcores recognition increase, we expect to expand globally. During Phase 1 we already started dialogues with leading global mobile operators that provided positive feedback and demonstrated interest in hosting demonstrations.
Block diagram of TSN MAC functionality