EU research on 5G aims at fostering Europe's technological know-how and industrial leadership in 5G technology. The research results are also intended to shape 5G standards, validate relevant spectrum identification and to support a global 5G vision. Dedicated working groups on architecture, spectrum, standards, technology evaluation, and consolidating the results of the relevant European research projects have been set up under the 5G PPP.
The Case of Standards and Spectrum
Standardisation of 5G started in early 2016 under the umbrella of 3GPP, the key standardisation body for global mobile communication systems. A first wave of standards is expected to be available around 2018 and a second wave will be developed during 2018-2020 time frame. The EU aims at influencing the technological definition of future 5G systems and consequently the standards through its advanced 5G research. The European Commission identifies 5G standards as one of the five priority areas under the recently launched Digitising European Industry initiative.
Similarly, 5G spectrum identification officially started at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) of the ITU to define 5G dedicated spectrum above 6GHz by 2019. In this context, EU research provides the ground technological analysis to assess applicability to the various bands under consideration.
Europe's 5G Research Plan
The 5G research is funded by the Horizon 2020 EU's research and innovation programme and is organised in 3 phases:
Phase 1: The future 5G network architecture
The European Commission launched nineteen (19) research projects with a budget of 129 M€ on 1 July 2015 to tackle these issues and to provide the essential elements of the future 5G network architecture. These first phase projects are covering the 2015-2017 period with an EU budget of 129 M€.
This phase is mainly focused on various core technologies of the future 5G network architecture such as:
- 5G new radio access interfaces (both below and above 6GHz)
- Novel radio and core network architectures based on software defined and virtualised technologies (the so called "cloudified networks"), cognitive network management as well as security and enabling technology aspects.
Phase 2: Move towards demonstration and experiments with the involvement of the vertical industries
The European Commission published a call for proposals for phase 2 in September 2015. The call opens in May 2016 with a deadline for submission of proposals on 8 November 2016. Phase 2 spans the period 2017-2018.
The second phase builds up on phase 1 and targets a move towards proof of concepts and experiments. It seeks to actively involve the vertical industries, which are anticipated to be part of the main users of future 5G networks.
Phase 3: Integration of an end to end 5G experimental network infrastructure
Phase 3 will consolidate the results of the previous phases through integration of an end to end 5G experimental network infrastructure. It can be used to validate the technological options in a full system context, and to validate the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the 5G PPP. This will also cover longer term research, which may still be needed for later releases of 5G having a deployment perspective around 2025. Larger scale pilot experiments with core 5G users are also expected to take place under phase 3 between 2018 and 2021.
A 5G vision paper was developed together with the 5G PPP in 2015, along with the ongoing research and to support the development of the 5G research and standards. It describes the main innovation and use cases of 5G networks and clarifies the European 5G vision.
The European 5G vision places vertical industries like the automotive sector or the health sector in the centre of 5G use cases. It revolutionises the way today's networks are designed and function. 5G networks are considered as flexible network platforms that can adapt to the versatile requirements of specific digital business use cases, such as those anticipated for autonomous driving, smart factories, remote healthcare and smart energy provision.
The European Commission and the 5G PPP worked together with various vertical industries to define the requirements of the various sectors. The overall goal of this close cooperation is to change today's networks, which are designed as "one size fits all" connectivity platforms. The result of this work is a White Paper entitled "5G empowering the vertical industries".
As a follow up to Research and Innovation work, the European Commission is currently contemplating a 5G Action Plan for 2016 to effective prepare deployment of 5G networks across Europe after 2020.