09 April 2013
The increasingly widespread use of smartphones capable of delivering audio and video streaming has caused an exponential growth in the volume of traffic carried through mobile networks. This tendency will increase more strongly in the future, with forecasts that anticipate a hundred-fold increase in traffic by 2020. For the purpose of finding viable solutions to cope with this challenge, Institute IMDEA Networks is coordinating the iJOIN* European project.
In consortium with leading academic and industrial partners, the research institute IMDEA Networks, based in Madrid is conducting research on the design and development of cellular networks capable of coping with the traffic demand of the future wireless Internet, while aiming to make those networks more energy-efficient (what is known in the industry as “green networking”) and lowering their deployment costs. The main pillar of these improvements focuses on shifting functionality to the cloud, according to the model known as cloud networking, which should enable for a cut in capital expenditures (CAPEX) and make the infrastructure easier to manage (OPEX). This paves the way for the arrival of new entrants into the sector and thus promotes competition and economic growth.
To this end, iJOIN is designing a novel architecture in which some of the features that traditionally are performed separately on different elements of a mobile network are exported to the cloud. With this integration, it is expected that network capacity will increase by 100% and reduce cost by 90%. Furthermore, it will improve its energy efficiency, reducing consumption by 95% compared to existing networks. The iJOIN project exemplifies the firm commitment of IMDEA Networks and the Regional Government of Madrid to wealth-creating and value-adding research.
From the applied research perspective, iJOIN has the potential of delivering technological benefits such as a substantial increase in the performance of mobile cellular communication networks without having to use more spectral resources, improved energy efficiency in terms of power usage per bit thanks to the use of high-density implementations, lower implementation and operation costs for small cells networks, and a more efficient usage and utilization of the existing resources. One of the potential outcomes of the “iJOIN” technologies is the possibility that the improved cellular connectivity would open the RAN/backhaul market to new entrants, such as vendors and providers of cloud infrastructure platforms. This would also lead to the development of a technological foundation enabling shorter and more efficient product development cycles, as a result of the shift from the use of dedicated equipment to cloud-hosted, software-based functionalities. Last, iJOIN will lead to a substantial reduction of the costs for carriers, since part of the complexity of the RAN processing will be moved to the cloud.
Albert Banchs, Deputy Director of the Institute, will work as the project coordinator, in charge of the research activities and the coordination with the partners of a consortium made up of the following organizations: Institute IMDEA Networks, NEC Europe Ltd, Telecom Italia S.p.A., Sagemcom Broadband SAS, Telefónica I+D, Intel Mobile Communications France, Hewlett Packard Italiana SRL, Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives, Universität Bremen, University of Surrey, Technische Universität Dresden, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. The project iJOIN started in November 2012 and has already been granted a Runner-up Award in the Best European Cooperative R&D Project.
*iJOIN: Interworking and JOINt Design of an Open Access and Backhaul Network Architecture for Small Cells based on Cloud Networks, is a collaborative research project in the ICT area, included in the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, running from November 2012 to April 2015.