Andrei Merkulov -

NTT advances IOWN with real-time optical and wireless cooperative control

NTT applies all-photonics network to advance wireless services for smart factories looking to improve significantly efficiency, cutting costs and enable advanced solutions such as telerobotic operations

In the latest part of the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) project, NTT has revealed that it has conducted a real-time cooperative control demonstration between IOWN APN (all-photonics network) and a wireless system in accordance with the state of radio usage toward the application of the IOWN APN to various wireless systems.

Supported by Sony, Intel, Nvidia, Microsoft and other leading technology firms, NTT’s IOWN initiative envisions global communications infrastructure capable of enabling high-speed, high-capacity internet services utilising photonics-based technologies.

It aims to address rising data demand and the related rise in energy consumption, and the vast amounts of compute power required by artificial intelligence (AI) and large language model (LLM) use cases.

It encompasses a networks and information processing infrastructure including terminals that can provide high-speed, high-capacity communication using technology focused on optics, as well as large computational resources.

IOWN comprises three major technical fields: an all-photonics network (APN), digital twin computing, and a cognitive foundation. The APN’s photonics and optics-based technologies are designed to achieve three performance targets: ultra-high capacity with data processing of 125 times greater than networks today by volume; ultra-low latency offering near-instant transmissions with end-to-end latency reduced by over 200 times; and ultra-low power consumption with a goal of 100 times more efficiency than current transmissions today, reducing carbon emissions by 45%.

With its latest development, NTT said that it has successfully demonstrated that the IOWN APN and a wireless system can be linked and controlled in real time in accordance with the usage status.

In the demonstration, NTT says that it first adopted the extended Cooperative Transport Interface (eCTI) under consideration at the IOWN Global Forum and linked a multi-radio proactive control technology (Cradio) with a low-latency FDN. By switching the optical path of the IOWN APN in real time in accordance with the wireless usage status, NTT said that it has shown that such a network can be provided between the wireless (Wi-Fi) and optical (APN) sections.

Pointing to potential use cases, NTT noted that the IOWN APN can be shared by multiple applications using only one line, which is expected to improve the efficiency of digital transformation (DX) in factories.

Explaining the background to the development work, NTT said DX in the manufacturing industry is rapidly expanding against the backdrop of a decline in the working population.

To support DX, both wireless and wired networks need to have high-capacity and low-latency performance as well as reliability that does not disrupt services. Especially for wireless networks, it is important to deal with wireless access environments such as wireless LAN and local 5G that are expected to be used in factories.

Power consumption and cost are also issues for DX adoption. From a network perspective, power consumption and costs increase as the number of network lines increases. For this reason, to increase the spread of DX in factories, network circuits need to be efficiently used while ensuring network performance and reliability.

More specifically, NTT observed that by collecting and analysing data on the operation status of equipment in each process in a factory in real time, it has taken measures to optimise and improve efficiency but also been actively improving efficiency and eliminating labour shortages by introducing robots.

The company suggested that its technology can enable mobile robots to support DX in factories to be operated sustainably and allows the APN connection from the wireless access point to the server to be changed freely depending on the usage status and application of the equipment in operation.

That includes changes in the number of connected terminals belonging to a specific access point and notifies the cooperative control function part (or notifies the cooperative control function part on the basis of user instructions) when such changes occur.

It also monitors change in applications, big data collection analysis and telerobotic operation of the operating equipment. An IOWN APN line can be shared by multiple applications and as a result NTT says that DX efficiency in the factory can be expected to be improved.

The demonstration comprised two experiments connecting a Wi-Fi access point (AP) and an IOWN APN line in a factory wireless environment, establishing an environment for communication between a wireless terminal under the Wi-Fi AP and a cloud server, and linking a wireless controller that implements the Cradio function to understand wireless usage status with an optical controller that switches the IOWN APN line via eCTI in real time.

Cradio is designed to understand radio wave fluctuations in a wireless section by acquiring precise radio environment information from a collection box that constantly collects radio frames in the vicinity of terminals.

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