Catalonia becomes the first European 5G open laboratory
Catalonia will become a unique open environment for 5G experimentation in Europe in which any local or international institution that so requires may validate its services and solutions in real environments. The Minister for Digital Policy and Public Administration of the Regional Government of Catalonia and President of the i2CAT Foundation, Jordi Puigneró, announced the collaboration agreement signed by Orange, the i2CAT Foundation, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (BarcelonaTech – UPC) and Mobile World Capital Barcelona (MWCapital), as part of the 5G Barcelona alliance.
The purpose of the agreement is to implement a laboratory in which to experiment with the latest Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and with 5G NR equipment for validating services in a 5G research and pre-commercial stage, in real environments and with a view to reducing project development times. The laboratory will also make it possible to design, test and explore applications based on massive internet of things and on network slicing, which will be pilot projects within 5G Barcelona initiative activities. These will be connected to Orange’s 5G network in order to facilitate experimentation and the implementation of 5G end-to-end use cases.
Through this agreement, and with a contribution by Orange worth over 2.5 million euros, the operating company is making 5G Barcelona electromagnetic spectrum on the 5G 3.5 GHz band, points of access to 5G pilot network, LTE-M access points and connection to an EPC (core network) available for the validation of different use cases. 5G Barcelona is therefore extending its Open Lab offering in order to develop use cases that may become services in the near future.
The scope of the award of the spectrum is for all Catalonia so it will therefore be possible to implement 5G experimental initiatives at any point in the territory. This will also be helped by the deployment of the optical fibre network of the Regional Government throughout Catalonia, which will allow for connectivity to 5G equipment and pilot trials currently without coverage. Catalonia is thus becoming a unique and differential, available open environment for experimentation.
In addition to accesses with LTE-M and 5G coverage on the UPC’s Barcelona North and Castelldefels Baix Llobregat campuses, the agreement includes two new areas with LTE-M coverage in Barcelona: the Fòrum and the 22@ zones.
The i2CAT Foundation will assume the technical coordination of management of the spectrum, MWCapital will lead the coordination of demand and pilot trials, and the UPC will provide the laboratories and research groups with 5G expertise on the Barcelona North Campus and the Baix Llobregat Campus as environments for assays and performing tests. The award by Orange is intended to allow for experimentation with the 5G platforms operational at UPC with signals and in real environments.
First pilot trials and 5G infrastructure
The i2CAT Foundation and the UPC plan to perform two initial pilot trials and make use of the new experimental infrastructures. i2CAT, for example, will test and validate in the 22@ environment the new neutral host concept, which belongs to the 5GCity European project led by i2CAT and is intended to minimise the number of infrastructure deployments in order to encourage operators to share it and to offer more competitive services. With this standardised, programmable solution, infrastructure operators can manage network and computation infrastructure comprehensively in order to supply services to network operators and therefore to invoice them. This enables them to expand their coverage with lower costs and to speed up the rate at which they can cover additional key locations.
On the North Campus, the UPC is establishing different laboratories that are crucial for providing support to 5G networks. Among other things, it has a testing ground with two data centres that are interconnected by an optical fibre ring. This system makes it possible to implement artificial intelligence and big data algorithms on data obtained from network monitoring. The purpose is to experiment in areas that include future smart networks, internet of things (IoT) applications and the deployment of virtual networks with resource guarantee. This infrastructure is connected to other laboratories on the North Campus and Baix Llobregat Campus.
5G terminals with distributed sensors and actuators will be deployed on the Baix Llobregat Campus. The data obtained will be transmitted to a virtualized data centre for processing. This data centre will be connected to the exterior and to the North Campus using 10 Gbps optical fibre. The physical and virtualized infrastructure is managed with a specific platform of controllers for experimenting with and developing new innovative IoT mass sensorization services, and for testing and designing solutions based on totally customisable flexible networks (SDN, NFV and network slicing). All of this will be from an educational perspective that will enable telecommunication engineering students to train and experiment with these innovative 5G technologies.
 Network Slicing: The option of segmenting the network to create sub-networks in order to provide connectivity that better suits specific needs .