Next generation wireless systems, 5G, will once again revolutionize the connectivity of our mobile devices. The technology enables extremely real-time communications and higher data rates along with improved mobility and coverage.
“With 5G, there is a new kind of flexibility from low to high data rates, and connectivity between objects, users, cars, and whatever that is possible to integrate with radio,” explains Giuseppe Destino from the CWC (Centre for Wireless Communications, University of Oulu). In other words, our devices will be more connected than ever.
On the other hand, building a communication system that can manage thousands of interconnected devices for example in an office floor is not straightforward. But fear not, the first complete 5G system able to cope with all of this is on its way, and is being developed and tested in Oulu. Its global showtime is in February 2018.
Futuristic experience for Olympic visitors
The H2020 5GCHAMPION (5G Communication with a Heterogeneous, Agile Mobile network in the Pyeongchang wInter Olympic competitioN) is an EU cooperation project with a goal in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 5GCHAMPION combines research efforts of Finnish, French, German, Belgian and South Korean partners. The project culminates at the Olympics, with a demonstration of the first complete 5G system.
Giuseppe Destino leads one of the research teams involved in 5GCHAMPION. The objective is ambitious: to build a system that can provide all the technological features necessary for 5G.
A full 5G system consists of technological cornerstones that are still under development. They include extremely fast data rates, ubiquitous connectivity, high-quality user experience and new features such as interoperability with satellite systems to make indoor positioning systems accurate. Destino’s team is working on a few of these necessities.
Constructing the new technology and piecing the whole system together takes time and research. “It’s difficult to build a specific component, but to put all elements together in a functioning manner with high-end requirements… That’s quite a challenge,” Destino says. Olympic visitors in Pyeongchang will experience all of these components in action, as a whole system.
The technologies that Destino’s team is developing aim at providing mobile users with very low latencies and a ubiquitous 5G coverage through mobile hotspots. The team is also working on integrating European and Korean network systems. “These are the technological cornerstones of the project. Most of the key work is actually done here in Oulu. CWC is leading the research activities.”
“Our idea at the Olympics is to demonstrate two types of applications,” Destino says. One aspect is to offer very fast mobile broadband in buses at the Olympic Village. “The other one is to do with low latency, and will be used for something cool related to advanced virtual gaming. It allows people to play the same game at the same time using virtual reality glasses. People will have a truly immersive experience, mostly enabled by wireless connectivity.”
Moving 5G hotspots in buses and trains will improve the availability and quality of services such as video streaming. “We are targeting to reach data rates of 2.5 gigabytes per second in a moving bus,” says Giuseppe Destino.
Giuseppe Destino slips into an augmented reality at the demo room of the Center for Ubiquitous Computing. One of the aims of his project is to provide smooth real-time gaming at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Unique expertise in Oulu
The University of Oulu is the only non-Korean university involved in the project. Having a show at the Olympics ensures a wide audience, which obviously attracted a lot of competitors as well. “Everybody wants to be at the Olympics. It took some work to get there,” Destino admits with a laugh.
The 5G test network in Oulu played a key role in CWC being selected as the unit to provide the 5G system platform to showcase the future technologies in Pyeongchang. Oulu’s 5G test network is one of the first environments where real technologies can be used for research, testing and prototyping purposes.
Another selling point of CWC was collaboration with a local business partner. “We have very nice cooperation with Nokia. We are really sharing useful information in order to build real devices,” Destino mentions. Nokia is leading the integration solutions.
The Olympic Games offer a venue to advertise the 5G research in Oulu. “This is a very nice window for that – we are going to get a lot of visibility. It will attract the scientific community and also be beneficial for our companies that want to get attached to 5G.”
If local companies wish to participate in 5G research in Oulu, they should get involved in the services that the 5G test network can cover. The network allows companies to test their own services in a real environment.
“We are really in a sense pioneering the 5G system. Very rarely you’ll find a university or research centre that can provide an overall system access to a new generation of mobile networks. We are very unique to have this type of access and expertise,” Destino remarks.
The 2018 Olympics are the first major milestone in 5G standardization, which is scheduled to be complete in 2020. Destino hopes that their project will have an impact on the upcoming 5G standard. The demonstration in Pyeongchang will teach a lot. “We will able to learn from a system design perspective, not just component-wise,” he says. “We are seeing what is happening in the big picture. In that sense, we are quite ahead of time.”
Destino calls 4G the endpoint of the first era of mobile networks. 5G is a new beginning. “5G gave us the possibility to start from scratch and re-think the system as a whole. Now the idea is really to think of it as a new opening for new services.”
However, Destino is a bit reluctant to predict the future of 5G. “You build a gadget and you can imagine some of its potential uses. But once the technology is there, people use their own imagination.” The impact of 5G will depend on how we choose to make use of it.
The EuCNC conference in Oulu in June 2017 will offer a first glimpse at the 5GCHAMPION demonstration.
Research fellow, PhD Giuseppe Destino is the project manager of one of the teams involved in 5GCHAMPION. He is also the leader of the Academy Project FALCON (Fundamentals of simultaneous localization and communication).
“I’ve been quite active in putting up projects in the last years,” Destino admits. “I was very much dedicated to building up this 5GCHAMPION project, in which I was really able to take myself and of course the CWC to the 5G community, both in Europe and worldwide. Because of competition it’s very difficult for universities in general to get into this group of global 5G leaders,” Destino explains.
Along with science, Destino has an interest in industrial projects. “In the future, I would like to see myself as one of the contributors to the 5G system, and also to future generations of communication networks. I would also like to expand this academic bubble a bit, maybe to the industry. I probably see my future there.”
How does Destino see our future with 5G? “We are already addicted to mobile phones… So my feeling is that there will be even more addiction,” he forecasts and bursts out laughing.
“As a researcher, you can definitely have a lot of fun with 5G,” Giuseppe Destino announces.
Multiple technologies for the 5GCHAMPION project are developed at CWC: radio frequency (RF) transceiver design, radio-access technologies (RAT) and system integration.
The RF group led by Prof. Aarno Pärssinen delivers the millimetre-wave RF transceiver. The RAT group led by Prof. Matti Latva-aho contributes with new methods for mobile backhaul radio access. Along with the 5G test network group (5GTN) led by Olli Liinamaa, CWC provides a unique 5G system platform to showcase the future technologies at the Olympics.
“The uniqueness of the CWC is its vibrant, multicultural, open-minded research environment that is the ground for productive cross-discipline activities”, Giuseppe Destino says.
5GCHAMPION team members at the CWC:
Professor Matti Latva-aho
More information: Project Manager Dr. Giuseppe Destino
H2020 5GCHAMPION project: http://www.5g-champion.eu/
Text: Antti Miettinen
Pictures: Essi Oikarinen
Last updated: 15.2.2017