5G Technology, Vicomtech’s committment to support companies
5G technology represents a great opportunity for companies in many sectors. This technology, which is now reaching the market, has been one of Vicomtech's biggest commitments since 2013, when its applications and what its deployment would be like were barely known.
The knowledge of technology since its inception and the participation of Vicomtech in its development through various forums and alliances, has motivated that today Vicomtech is consolidated as a key player in the development of solutions adapted to companies in the industrial sector, mobility and transport, broadcasting and entertainment, among other sectors.
To know more in detail what 5G consists of and how it is unfolding within the processes of the companies, we interview Dr. Mikel Zorrilla, Director of Digital Media at Vicomtech.
Why did Vicomtech begin researching 5G technology already in 2013?
Vicomtech, as a technological centre specialised in Artificial Intelligence, Visual Computing & Interaction, works for the competitiveness of companies. We have been transferring technology and solutions for years, among others, to the media, industry 4.0, transport, energy and eHealth sectors. Therefore, and focusing on multimedia communications, 5G technologies are and will be key to continue providing value to the companies we work with. With that vision we started our activity in 5G in 2013 and today, it is still a wide initiative, which translates into an expansion of the research team and the equipment in the communications laboratory.
What companies can benefit? In which sectors is it being applied or is it expected to be applied?
5G technology will open a world of possibilities and new business for companies from many different sectors. From the 5G Infrastructure Association, of which we are members, verticals are identified in which 5G communications will have a direct impact, including the media and entertainment, automotive, industry 4.0, energy, biomedical or eHealth applications, public safety or so-called sectors and Smart Cities.
For example, Vicomtech already has a long history in pilots and research projects in multimedia content distribution and entertainment, and in intelligent transport. With regard to the middle sector, Vicomtech participated in the COGNET project that worked on the virtualization of the network and the use of Artificial Intelligence for intelligent and predictive management of the network in order to maximize efficiency among the costs and the quality of the multimedia distribution experience. In addition, through the CDN-X-ALL project, Vicomtech contributed very significantly to the OpenAirInterface Software Alliance (OSA) by providing the first free software implementation of a FeMBMS receiver, in collaboration with IRT (German Broadcasting Technology Center, Munich ), and transferring that technology to German broadcasters.
Regarding the use of 5G technologies in the automotive sector, Vicomtech has a long history in research projects, in which 5G-MOBIX stands out. This project analyzes the implications of 5G and its role in the autonomous driving of the future, focusing on cross-border corridors in Europe.
However, to cite other examples, in the industry and advanced manufacturing sector cases of training and remote maintenance will be enabled through Virtual or Augmented Reality technologies, and in the eHealth sector a distribution can be made of high-fidelity multimedia content in real time. In this way, a team of first responders or people who go first to overcome a catastrophe may have remote experts to help them diagnose patients and monitor high-fidelity content in real time thanks to X-ray technologies, ultrasound, etc. in a reliable way.
When we talk about 5G, what are we talking about? How would you define 5G technology?
5G is the name given to the fifth generation of mobile phone networks. On the one hand, it will allow a transmission speed 1,000 times greater than that of the LTE network (known as 4G). However, its advantages and opportunities go beyond the increase in transmission speed:
- It offers better performance in dense areas, where there are many devices accessing services at the same time, such as live events with massive influx in concerts or stadiums, or in an industrial IoT environment where there can be many connected devices and transmitting information at the same time
- It allows connections with high mobility, providing vehicles that can reach 500 km / h of reliable and stable connectivity, or
- It is capable of providing connections with a latency close to 10 ms, opening a range of possibilities and services in real time.
The true revolution of 5G networks underlies the digital transformation of networks. Software and Virtualization technologies will provide networks with dynamic monitoring and programming capabilities and can apply new configurations and resources to respond quickly to a changing volume of traffic and performance needs depending on the service or group of users.
The deployment in base stations of Software Defined Radio nodes (in English SDR Software Defined Radio), allows the creation and efficient management of a radiocommunication system, where several of the components that were typically implemented in hardware, can be implemented and deployed by software. In addition, the virtualization of network nodes and functions (in English NFV Network Function Virtualization) will improve the operational efficiency of the network, with a network sized to meet the needs of each moment, reducing operating expenses when parts of the network are in disuse and increasing the resources in the network when the demand requires it. In addition, the concept called Network Slicing will allow the coexistence of several virtual networks on a single hardware infrastructure, thus allowing the network to be compartmentalized and to be able to customize the needs of each of the compartments according to their use.
On the other hand, the so-called Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) offers possibilities of Cloud Computing in the Edge (or edge of the network) to application developers, thus being able to offer very low latency and real-time access to the Radio network information, which can be used by the applications themselves.
All this set of technologies, included within 5G, will make possible services and communications that until now were not feasible.
How can Vicomtech contribute to companies that want to integrate 5G technology into their processes?
One of the main paradigm changes that 5G will bring will be openness and flexibility so that companies can customize and adapt the network to their needs, thanks to slicing, resources in the Edge, etc. Therefore, 5G opens up the possibility of the network being seen as a black box managed by an operator, and will allow companies to make a “tailored suit” to cover the specific needs of their use case: resource deployment on the Edge, ensure the reliability of data and critical connections, ensure maximum latency, achieve reliability of available bandwidth, etc.
However, today, it is still complex to know how to apply that “tailored suit” to the service of companies, since the current commercial deployments of 5G still only partially implement the standard, and all its potential benefits will be gradually incorporated in future versions of the standard, and so on, they will be incorporated into commercial deployments.
Vicomtech brings its knowledge of the standard and its pilot implementations, with the possibility of creating “tailored suits” for each of the companies, focusing on the particular needs of each one, and the KPIs critical for the viability of the business in each of the environments.
In addition, Vicomtech has a neutral 5G network equipment, that is, it does not depend on any operator, and it is constantly evolving as new features of 5G are available. Therefore, it can develop, implement and validate services and use cases, which are subsequently fully interoperable with a commercial network.