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Smart Internet Lab commences 5G/MEC research collaboration with SRUK

23 April 2020

The University of Bristol's Smart Internet Lab has embarked on a new two-year research collaboration with Samsung Research (SRUK) on a project called MEC Mobility.

As the number of 5G commercial deployments increase year-on-year, and across every region of the globe, the availability of edge computing is also expected to gain increasing momentum. University of Bristol's Smart Internet Lab is interested in edge computing and 5G and these are the two key areas that we will be focussing on in this project. 5G radically reduces the radio access latency and the maximum achievable throughput, which when combined with edge computing enable a myriad of new and innovative use cases. The complementary nature of 5G and edge computing was recognised right from the outset when defining the targets and applicable use cases for 5G. These were captured through initiatives such as the NGMN 5G White Paper. Here, new use cases are described that rely on enabling concepts such as context recognition and are targeted at being made available in an environment where communication is available to all, regardless of location, device and network connection.

To fulfil such use cases, that include pervasive video, eXtended Reality (XR), multi-user interactions (including gaming) and 3D holographic services, edge computing is seen as crucial. This is because its deployment provides computational processing power and data storage closer to the edge of the network in a distributed manner. This then provides a platform to run artificial intelligence (AI) / machine learning (ML), pattern recognition and signal processing algorithms necessary to identify users’ real-time contextual situation. The services themselves can also be run at the edge, for instance the gaming server, rendering engine for the game, or virtual reality (VR) application. By running such services far closer to the end user, rather than at a centralised cloud location, the end user also benefits from ultra-low latency (improved response times), enhanced security (local data processing in a secure environment) and reduced data corruption (short transmission paths).

Another emerging trend is cloud gaming (for example Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia) where edge computing can play a key role. Here the game is run on remote servers and then streamed directly to the user’s device. The result is that the device only requires a thin client, relieving the end user device of a significant processing burden and maximising battery life. In order to ensure an acceptable quality of experience whilst playing the game, minimising the network latency and packet loss is critical. Bandwidth consumption is another concern, especially if the transmitted data has to traverse a significant distance to reach the gaming server. This issue is well recognised with Google for instance increasingly making points of presence available at a country level. Edge computing takes this a significant step further by offering points of presence within an operator’s network, offering the opportunity for an unparalleled gaming experience for end users.

One of the challenges as edge computing servers are moved closer to the network edge is ensuring seamless service continuity in situations where the end user is moved between edge servers, or between an edge server and the cloud. The need to switch server may result from factors such as user mobility (where the optimum server depends on user location), load balancing (where the current server has resource constraints due to loading or server issues), or edge data network availability (particularly as the edge service coverage area is unlikely to ubiquitous during initial rollout). In order to address this challenge, the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab has embarked on a new two-year research collaboration with SRUK. The Smart Internet Lab, was selected as the research partner since it is renowned as one of the UK’s premier information and communications technology research centres, with a wealth of relevant experience and expertise spanning edge computing, 5G, software defined networking (SDN), network function virtualisation (NFV), orchestration and AI/ML.

The project has an emphasis on both research and practical deployment, where the intention is to develop commercially viable algorithms and techniques.  The University of Bristol has a proven track record of deploying and testing solutions in live networks, where they have experience with their own 5GUK Test Network, funded via the UK Government’s Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme. A key component of this research project will be the 5G-VINNI UK test network, hosted at BT Labs in Suffolk and built by SRUK together with Samsung Networks Europe. This EU project funded multi-site 5G network comprises of sub-6GHz and 28GHz radios and a commercial grade virtualised RAN, Core and EMS. The test setup has already been used to demonstrate high-bandwidth, low latency video production, remote control of robots with VR-based image recognition, social care solutions for the elderly and low latency cloud gaming.

It therefore provides the ideal testbed for the algorithms and techniques developed through this newly initiated edge mobility focused research collaboration with the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab, where further updates will be provided as the project progresses and the migration to the edge continues to gather momentum! 

Prof. Dimitra Simeonidou, Director of Smart Internet Lab said: “We are delighted to announce this research collaboration with SRUK focusing on the development of next generation MEC solutions. Edge Computing is fundamental for improving services in future mobile networks, 5G and beyond. We aim to design and demonstrate MEC solutions delivering ultra-low latency, high location accuracy and enhanced security, while supporting service customization and optimization through intelligent processing at the edge. We are confident that our joint R&D team will successfully deliver this ambitious R&D program in the next two years”

“The UK has been at the forefront of communications research since the early days of GSM. Bristol University is of the key players from link level simulation in 2G to new network slicing and advanced MIMO techniques for 5G. Samsung is proud to build on that expertise with the joint research project on MEC mobility” Dr. Howard Benn, VP Communications Research, Samsung R&D Institute UK.


Further information

The Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol and our 5GUK Test Network

The Smart Internet Lab at the University of Bristol is a hub for internet research which addresses grant societal and industrial challenges. We perform cutting edge research on optical and wireless communications and offer a unique holistic approach to hardware and software co-design, solving critical problems in the global internet evolution. We are world leaders in 5G convergence research and have deployed 5G capability in Bristol city centre focusing on the convergence of fibre infrastructure and 5G wireless access. The University of Bristol's 5GUK Test Network is the UK’s first urban 5G End-to-End Testbed.

NGMN 5G White Paper:

5G Vinni:

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