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Preparing for a 5G Future

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Published on Friday, 19 February 2021

As in many other countries across the world, Luxembourg is currently in the process of evaluating the benefits of a local implementation of 5G systems and laying the technical groundwork. In 2019, to prepare for this transition to the new telecommunication standard, the Government launched a tender to call for research projects aiming at both investigating the socio-economic benefits of 5G systems as well as collecting data on their electromagnetic emissions.

As 2020 came to a close, the Service des Médias et des Communications (SMC) of the Luxembourg Government awarded six projects from local institutes and organisations in the framework of the tender. Among these six were two projects proposed by researchers here at SnT. The projects, titled IRANATA and Micro5G, respectively aim to measure the interference and radiation levels of 5G systems, and carry out industrial research on 5G technologies to explore the deployment of drone services in Luxembourg.

IRANATA: measuring interference and radiation of 5G antennas

A key component of 5G systems are Active Antenna Systems (AAS), which constitute one of their most important technological enablers. This component introduces a very important feature of 5G technologies called “beamforming” – allowing antennas in the base stations to direct signals only to where they are needed, instead of broadcasting in all directions - as current 4G antennas do. For this reason, AAS have been classified by the 3GPP, the consortium of organisations that establishes worldwide standards for mobile telecommunications, as a priority for 5G deployment. This feature is so important for the future of communications that phone manufacturers have already designed and commercialised devices that support this technology.

In Luxembourg, further research is needed before kickstarting the practical deployment of AAS for 5G. This is exactly what IRANATA, a project led by SnT’s Prof. Symeon Chatzinotas, Prof. Holger Voos and Dr. Nicola Maturo, sets out to do. First, the two-year project will assess potential interferences of the AAS signals both inside and outside the 5G system. As an example, AAS signals may or may not interfere with adjacent 4G systems and TV broadcasting signals that are already a crucial part of the telecommunications network. Secondly, the project will study the 3D coverage mapping for these antenna arrays, to lay out the basis for the optimal future implementation of 5G systems. Combined, these first two objectives will support the network planning for 5G coverage in the country. In addition, the project will also assess the emission levels of the 5G systems, to support the government in drafting new regulations, and inform the general public about the electromagnetic emissions of 5G systems compared to those of 4G.

Micro5G: 5G drone systems for emergency and commercial services

Currently, countries worldwide are working on the first phase of 5G deployment, aimed at enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) applications. The promise of dramatically increasing data rate and bandwidth demand for mobile applications, for instance to enable UltraHD, or augmented and virtual reality, opens up new worlds of possibilities. But many researchers are already looking beyond that, to the upcoming second stage of 5G implementation, which is expected to put more emphasis on Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communications (URLCC). The main objective of this second phase will be to minimise the “delay” in data transmission – its latency – to ultra-low levels (<1 millisecond) and to provide ultra-high reliability, for the first-time enabling mission-critical applications to rely on wireless data transmissions. This is a crucial development that will change the face of global telecommunications as we know it – eventually allowing use cases such as remote surgery, automated driving, real-time management of smart grids, and more.

In the framework of the Micro5G project, a team of researchers at SnT, led by Prof. Symeon Chatzinotas, Prof. Miguel Angel Olivarez Mendez, and Dr. Shree Krishna Sharma, will study URLCC in combination with mobile edge computing (MEC) to enable 5G drone services for a vast range of purposes. Examples include collecting real-time environmental data for critical purposes such as disaster management, emergency services, healthcare, but also agriculture and traffic management. In addition, the Micro5G project will explore other use cases for drones, such as the creation of no-fly zones for natural reserves, and other different commercial applications. This research direction is meant to lay the foundations for the respective regulatory bodies to draft new policies, and for the drone operators to increase safety and create new services that will benefit the community.