5G is moving into the second phase of its development, which will bring a whole host of new technological challenges and innovations. Research and industry stakeholders are working hard to address the challenges posed by the next generation of mobile communication. In this context, Qualcomm, EURECOM and IMT recently signed a partnership agreement also including France Brevets. What is the goal of the partnership? To better prepare 5G standards and release technologies from laboratories as quickly as possible. Raymond Knopp, a researcher in communication systems at EURECOM, presents the content and challenges of this collaboration.
What do you gain from the partnership with Qualcomm and France Brevets?
Raymond Knopp: As researchers, we work together on 5G technologies. In particular, we are interested in those which are closely examined by 3GPP, the international standards organization for telecommunication technologies. In order to apply our research outside our laboratories, many of our projects are carried out in collaboration with industrial partners. This gives us more relevance in dealing with the real-world problems facing technology. Qualcomm is one of these industrial partners and is one of the most important companies in the generation of intellectual property in 4G and 5G systems. In my view, it is also one of the most innovative in the field. The partnership with Qualcomm gives us a more direct impact on technology development. With additional support from France Brevets, we can play a more significant role in defining the standards for 5G. We have a lot to learn from the intellectual property generation, and these partners provide us with this knowledge.
What technologies are involved in the partnership?
RK: 5G is currently moving into its second phase. The first phase was aimed at introducing new network architecture aspects and new frequencies. This meant increasing the frequency bands by about 5 or 6 times. This phase is now operational, and so innovations are secondary. The technologies we are working on now are mainly for the second phase. It is oriented more towards private networks, for applications involving machines and vehicles, new network control systems, etc. Priority will be given to network division and software-defined network (SDN) technologies, for example. This is also the phase in which low latency and very highly robust communication will be developed. This is the type of technology we are working on under this partnership.
Are you already thinking of the implementation of the technologies developed in this second phase?
RK: For now, our work on implementation is very much aimed at the first-phase technologies. We are involved in the H2020, 5Genesis and 5G-Eve projects, for conducting tests on 5G, both for mobile terminals and the network side of things. These trials involve our platform OpenAirInterface. For now, the implementation of second-phase technologies is not a priority. Nevertheless, intellectual property and any standards generated in the partnership with Qualcomm could potentially undergo implementation tests on our platform. However, it will be some time before we reach that stage.
What does a partnership with an industrial group like this represent for an academic researcher like yourself?
RK: It is an opportunity to close the loop between research, prototyping, standards and industrialization, and to see our work applied directly to the 5G technologies we will be using tomorrow. In the academic world in general, we tend to be uni-directional. We write publications, and some of them contain issues that could be included in standards, but this isn’t done and they are left accessible to everyone. Of course, companies go on to use them without our involvement, which is a pity. By setting up partnerships like this one with Qualcomm, we learn to appreciate the value of our technologies and developing them together. I hope it will encourage more researchers to the same. The field of academic research in France needs to be aware of the importance of closely following the standards and industrialization process!