The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) will coordinate a project on 6G mobile networks funded by the Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU) under the Horizon Europe programme. Entitled 6G-TWIN, the project is one of the 27 new research and experimentation initiatives selected from the second SNS JU call for proposals, which will all start operating from January 1, 2024. Established by the European Commission in 2021, SNS JU serves as a foundation for fostering the growth of intelligent communication components, systems, and networks, which play a crucial role in constructing a top-tier European supply chain for cutting-edge 5G and upcoming 6G technologies.
The rapid integration of digital technology across industries like transportation and manufacturing has boosted the need for efficient communication and computing services. To meet this, innovative approaches for 6G architecture are crucial, aiming to go beyond current 5G capabilities.
“Each generation of mobile technology takes roughly a decade to evolve from conception to commercial deployment,” explains Sébastien Faye, 6G-TWIN Project Coordinator. “Starting from the first generations, which brought basic cellular connectivity, through 5G, which facilitates revolutionary applications like connected and automated mobility, each iteration introduces new capabilities to meet a demand that is continually growing. Networks are becoming increasingly complex and distributed, requiring a large variety of technologies to operate. With 6G, which is now on the horizon for around 2030, it is essential to design, experiment and standardize new network architectures with more intelligence and automation – which is what we will be proposing in this project.”
European 6G roadmaps prioritize an AI-native management system for complex networks. These networks need to be sustainable, energy-efficient, and adaptable to various services and business models. Establishing a consistent unified communication and computing architecture requires unconventional methods, along with collaboration among standardization groups and industry leaders for practical market integration.
Leveraging AI for next-generation 6G architecture
To achieve this, the 6G-TWIN consortium “will explore the concept of Network Digital Twinning (NDT) and its integration into future 6G systems”, says Faye. Creating a real-time digital replica of the physical network infrastructure (i.e., NDTs) means creating a sandbox in which it is possible to train models and test different scenarios before deploying them on physical network controllers. “6G will enable real-time interaction between physical networks and these digital copies, with the aim of optimizing various parameters, anticipating failures, improving energy efficiency and so on,” he adds, “thus paving the way for highly efficient and intelligent networks.”
The project also includes plans to create demonstrators that validate the concepts developed, adds Faye. These demonstrators encompass teleoperated driving and energy-efficient network distribution. “By exploring these real-world applications, the project will not only contribute to the theoretical advancement of 6G but also demonstrate its practical feasibility – thanks to a wide range of expertise from the 11 project partners.”
The 6G-TWIN consortium is made up of multiple partners, ranging from universities and research centres (IMEC, Politecnico di Bari, Technische Universität Dresden, Université de Bourgogne) to SMEs (Accelleran, Research to Market Solution France, Ubiwhere) and large industrial entities (Ericsson Araştırma Geliştirme ve Bilişim Hizmetleri A.Ş., Proximus Luxembourg, VIAVI Solutions). From Luxembourg, the collaboration includes Proximus Luxembourg/Telindus, with whom LIST already has a collaboration agreement on the development of business use-cases based on advanced connectivity. With a total grand budget of €4 million over three years, this initiative exemplifies the European Commission’s commitment to fostering innovation and research that will shape the future of wireless communication, and, within LIST, another step towards the creation of a strong centre of excellence around Digital Twin Technologies.