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MWC 2018: Project Flame launches 5G testbed in Barcelona

The European H2020 Project Flame has launched the first urban-scaled 5G testbed for open media internet trials, using an InterDigital platform

Project Flame, a European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 funding framework-backed project exploring advanced 5G mobile networking technology, has unveiled the first citywide 5G testbed for open media internet trials in Barcelona.

Announced at Mobile World Congress – also taking place in Barcelona – the testbed is set to offer the first consumer-focused, real-life trial of 5G technology in support of enhanced mobile broadband for entertainment and other services.

Project Flame is led by 12 partners from six European countries – the University of Southampton, InterDigital Europe, Atos Spain, i2CAT, the University of Bristol, Martel Innovate, VRT, the Walt Disney Company, ETH Zurich, the Institut Municipal d’Informatica de Barcelona, and Bristol Is Open – which are pooling their complementary competencies to contribute to future 5G implementation.

“The Flame project offers ground-breaking and unique technologies, setting this 5G testbed apart from all that have come before it,” said Dirk Trossen, Flame technical manager and senior principal engineer at InterDigital.

“We are honoured to be a part of the first real-life insights into the transformation of 5G media delivery and the enablement of new media services for smart cities. The launch of the urban-scale testbed is truly a milestone for the advancement of 5G.”

The trials will use Flame’s service delivery platform, which contains at its heart a next-generation network flexible IP-based services (Flips) platform developed by InterDigital and modelled on prototypes developed by other H2020 R&D projects – Point (IP over ICN – the better IP) and Rife (architecture for an internet for everybody).

Flips is designed to optimise service request delivery over emerging programmable infrastructures, while offering many of the anticipated 5G benefits, such as low latency, higher bandwidth, lower cost and enhanced security.

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Alongside the Barcelona testbed, a second trial will run in Bristol – where, as previously explored by Computer Weekly, the Bristol Is Open smart city project is running one of the world’s most advanced trials of future networking tech. The partners plan to expand to other cities across Europe through a €2m programme of open calls, enabling players from the creative industries, telecoms and smart city startups to test 5G applications at city-scale.

InterDigital also used MWC to announce the deployment of a live consumer-facing 5G network architecture through the Rife project in Tarragona, Spain, exploring areas around network affordability and access in rural community network builds.

The Rife project, which besides InterDigital consists of eight partners, including Martel Innovate, Aalto University, the University of Cambridge, Thales Alenia Space, Avanti, Guifi.net and the Technical University of Munich, was set up specifically to address the societal challenge of bringing affordable internet access to those who cannot otherwise afford it. This would be done by boosting the efficiency of underlying transport networks, architectures and protocols and bringing down the overall cost of deployment.

The Tarragona trial is also using the Flips platform, along with community-supported hardware through Catalan community network Guifi.net. It comprises a software-based switching and routing system based on information-centric networking principles, which InterDigital expects to drive cost reduction by improving bandwidth use, both in the fronthaul utilisation and towards the peering links – which are typically the expensive part of a community-built network.

“This trial highlights another facet of 5G,” said InterDigital’s Trossen. “It is not just all about bandwidth improvement or new services, but also a focus on the societal challenge of bringing affordable internet to more people.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate our fully software-based solution, based on information-centric networking principles, in a real-life setting while making strides towards the ultimate goal of making the internet affordable to everyone.”

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