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Vilicom, BT, UK academia gain funding to spearhead 5G and AI research

Strategic network consultancy teams with incumbent UK telco and universities in all-new scientific research project based on advanced communications

UK-based wireless technology provider and mobile communications system integrator Vilicom has been awarded a grant alongside BT Labs and Bristol and Loughborough Universities to take part in leading 5G and artificial intelligence (AI) scientific studies.

As part of the research grant, Vilicom will work on the definition of business and technology use cases, with a focus on using AI to create cognitive 5G networks using Massive MIMO technology that automatically adapt to traffic patterns, user behaviour and external factors.

Vilicom data scientists will work on creating data structures, as well as integrating and developing AI algorithms for descriptive, prescriptive analysis of network operational and user quality of experience data to support decision-making in planning network expansion and optimisation actions.

The research and development initiative will be led by Innovate UK, under the Celtic Next international framework, and is called the Artificial intelligence-enabled massive multiple-input multiple-output (AIMM) project. The objective of the AIMM is to consider potential applications of AI in the 5G radio access network (RAN), mainly to improve the performance of Massive MIMO technology and it marks an attempt to achieve ubiquitous access that is likely to be a key technology forming the underpinnings of 5G and beyond.

Two aspects will be considered: a bottom-up approach optimising the radio interface, enabling novel antenna structures and deployment techniques, and a top-down approach using AI to improve management and optimise the RAN at a system level.

In both applications, Vilicom says “novel” solutions will be identified and assessed, not only for the technical improvement they bring compared to existing techniques and architectures, but also for the achievable difference in cost and ease of implementation.

Read more about 5G in the UK

Vilicom managing director Marc Ibanez described the grant as a huge step forward for the company and testament to its competence in scientific technology innovation.

“The expertise of Vilicom’s research and development team is already proven with a legacy of continuous testing of 5G and AI technologies that have helped populate an invaluable body of knowledge aiding innovation in the field of mobile connectivity,” he said. “We are delighted to be working with dedicated partners and look forward to not only sharing our decades of industry experience, but absorbing learnings from our partners and peers within the telecommunications sphere.”

Adrian Sharples, BT’s head of wireless and mobile research, added: “We welcome the opportunity to work with the partners on this collaborative project, which will bring different perspectives to the use of AI to optimise the mobile radio access network.

“BT is ready to play our part and lead on defining the business models and use-cases for the AIMM consortium. We believe the innovative use of network performance data to enhance capacity and, increasingly, differentiate between services offered on the radio network will provide new benefits to customers.”

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