While commercial deployments of 5G networks are steadily increasing, many commentators predict that the rise of more immersive communication, holographic telepresence, and social experiences powered by Extended Reality (XR)… IE ‘the metaverse’, will create vast amounts of generated data and applications that will rapidly exceed the current and future capabilities of 5G networks… challenges that may be solved by 6G.
Looking to build the foundation for these new experiences, a European initiative called 6G-BRICKS - funded by the European Commission under the Horizon Europe Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU) and coordinated by Christos Verikoukis, Collaborating Faculty Member at the Industrial Systems Institute/ATHENA Research and Innovation Centre, in Patras, Greece - has begun to design and closely study the concept of a 6G facility that uses a new generation of Smart Networks and software-defined technologies to enable such high-powered production and distribution applications. The infrastructure is based on existing ICT-52 platforms.
6G experimentation platform architecture across two systems.
6G-BRICKS aims to offer an agile and evolvable 6G experimentation environment, based on two experimentation platforms in Belgium (KUL) and France (EUR). These are based on previous 5G-PPP initiatives under a Core Site (ISI/ATH) acting as the facility entry point, and offering Public Cloud and experimentation services. The Facility will be accessible by third-party consortiums, application owners, as well as experimenters from industry. The facility will showcase a disaggregated Management Plane and Operations Support System, to support extendibility, evolvability, and multi-tenancy, going well beyond centralized Cross-Domain Service Orchestrators (CDSOs) and OSS/BSS systems typically supported in 5G-PPP experimentation platforms. 6G-BRICKS will be the first open 6G experimentation platform to combine 'cell-free networking', the Open-Air Interface and Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS) protocols, with virtualized technology. The use of Open Interfaces (O-RAN), and Open-Source software stacks will theoretically allow for future expansion.
While they only exist conceptually at the moment, 6G networks are envisioned as portals to a 'fully digitized society' where the physical and virtual world are blended via XR apps. To support this vision of an all-digital world, 6G-BRICKS proponents say that network capacity must be increased by an unspecified order of magnitude, while infrastructures must be transformed into a 'very dense continuum'.
“It is clear that to win this race towards shaping the next generation communication ecosystem, a new generation of testbed infrastructures and breakthrough research and technology development is needed, as well as a new generation of testbeds to support future research initiative,” said the project coordinator Prof. Christos Verikoukis at the Industrial Systems Institute, a research centre in Patras, Greece.
The multi-phase 6G-BRICKS imitative is being coordinated by Prof. Christos Verikoukis Collaborating Faculty member at Industrial Systems Institute and ATHENA Research and Innovation Centre, in Greece.
The 6G-BRICKS group overseeing the project includes participants from 4 5G-PPP projects (MonB5G, MARSAL, REINDEER, HEXA-X) that have joined forces, providing a mature set of tools from the 5GMediaHUB 5G-PPP project. The team includes specialists in 6G technologies like cell-free networking, distributed processing and Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS), that are designing a modular platform design and software virtualization to deliver an end-to-end 6G experimentation platform. The project will structure various architecture tiers around the concept of “LEGO Bricks,” that deliver self-contained test bed nodes that can be reused across testbed infrastructures.
"This significantly lowers the barrier of entry for specialists to bring their breakthrough technologies for validation and experimentation, said Dr. Konstantinos Ramantas, technical manager of the 6G-BRICKS project and Senior Researher at IQUADRAT Informatica, in Barcelona, Spain.
A good real world application example of the potential of 6G is how Brainstorm, (specialists in real-time 3D graphics, virtual sets, and augmented reality solutions), is involved. Javier Montesa, Technical Coordinator at Brainstorm, explained that the main objective is to verify and determine how the capabilities of the 6G network will support the deployment of this kind of technology, particularly as depth sensor quality improves and buffers with significantly greater resolution become available. The development team will rescale depth buffers up to the largest size permitted by the 6G network and explore coding methods to accomplish this goal.
“The telepresence module developed in the Admire project and the results from this project are intended to be combined by Brainstorm in order to allow remote participants to be incorporated into broadcast programs,” said Montesa.
For companies like Brainstorm, one outcome will be an interactive video conferencing system that operates within virtual environments and is built to work with current and emerging sensor technologies.
“Due to the benefits that the 6G network offers, the project focuses on testing several methods for recording volumetric videos and developing an interactive video-conference system inside of virtual spaces,” said Francisco Ibáñez, R&D Project Manager at Brainstorm. “The development team will employ depth sensors to capture users with its volume. The resulting footage will be live streamed over the Internet.”
The 6G-BRICKS group is looking for new technologies and applications related to 6G technology.
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