The NEC Laboratories Europe 6G Group develops novel networked systems technologies that contribute to NEC’s vision for 5G and 6G-based solutions. 6G systems will further merge digital and physical worlds, transforming cities and major industries. Examples include automotive, robotics, public safety and healthcare.
The 6G Group leverages artificial intelligence to design and optimize future networked systems that will help digitally transform society in line with Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. We are a forerunner in researching and developing open and virtualized networked solutions and the creation of novel smart surface technology.
Towards 6G with Open RAN
The 6G Group is a main contributor to open RAN (O-RAN), which is a key component of next-generation cellular networks that will provide openness and vendor diversity. Our group’s O-RAN research enhances current 3GPP RAN architecture in three areas:
Openness: By decoupling RAN functionality through open interfaces and creating smaller interconnected functional components, we are increasing the competitiveness and innovation of O-RAN in all industries.
Intelligence: We have developed RAN Intelligent Controllers (RICs) that operate at different timescales and introduced artificial intelligence workflows. These innovations are strengthened by the intelligent control of RAN functions and RAN service management and orchestration.
Virtualization: Our group builds virtualized radio access networks (vRANs) to perform baseband processing on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers. The new approach offers many advantages over traditional hardwired RANs. For example, it mitigates vendor lock-in, streamlines network upgrades and enables resource multiplexing.
At NEC Laboratories Europe, we envision O-RAN as an opportunity to innovate 5G and 6G next-generation mobile systems. Since 2019, NEC laboratories Europe has leveraged O-RAN technology to create novel control and virtualization solutions such as vrAIn and Nuberu.
vrAIn is an AI-powered resource orchestration for virtualized RANs. It integrates machine learning models within non and near-real-time (RT) RICs for the joint orchestration of radio and computing resources in RAN. vrAIn’s artificial intelligence helps maximize resource reliability and minimize energy consumption.
Nuberu provides novel virtualization techniques to host distributed units (a key data processing component in RAN) over shared, general-purpose virtualization platforms. Nuberu helps to lower the cost of capital equipment and reduces energy consumption.
Led by the O-RAN Alliance, many mobile operators and industry network providers are now building and deploying virtual RANs (vRANs), which is creating new business opportunities in the RAN market.
Leading the innovation of smart surfaces
Smart surfaces, also called reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RISs), are a revolutionary technology that can intelligently and flexibly alter how radio waves propagate in an environment. Smart surfaces help optimize communication performance and transform a black-box adversarial wireless channel into a programmable communication environment.
Smart surface devices are equipped with low-cost and low-complexity electronics, making the technology accessible to a wide range of users. The technology opens up new business opportunities and advanced use cases for 5G and the next generation of wireless networks. The technology can enhance 5G network cover, improve signal localization and the sensing of IoT devices, and create robust electromagnetic shielding.
The 6G group is a leader in smart surface research and development. We contribute to all phases of technology development from refining smart surface theory to prototyping. NEC Laboratories Europe is helping define future use cases and scenarios where NEC smart surface technology will play a significant role. This includes enhancing quality of network services and overcoming challenges in network coverage.
To accelerate the network deployment of smart surfaces we actively participate in related standardization activities. As part of these efforts, the 6G Group is participating in several EU and national projects focused on the continued development of smart surface technology.