ETHER aims to provide a holistic approach for integrated terrestrial-non-terrestrial networks targeting 100% network coverage, 99.99999% service continuity and 99.99999% reliability, with 3 times higher energy efficiency and 95% Total Cost of Ownership reduction compared to current terrestrial deployments. To achieve these goals, ETHER develops solutions for a Unified Radio Access Network (RAN) and energy-efficient, AI-enabled resource management across the terrestrial, aerial and space domains while creating the business plans driving future investments in the area.
Within the project, the i2CAT Foundation will lead the Work package WP4 – Zero-touch data-driven network and service orchestration in the 3D ETHER architecture –, which main objectives are:
- Develop an AI-driven orchestration framework for the proactive zero-touch management of network and service functions in the 3D ETHER architecture.
- Develop a cloud continuum orchestration framework for seamlessly managing the heterogeneous compute resources (i.e., cloud vs. edge or diverse edge topologies).
- Develop energy-efficient joint communication, computational and storage resource allocation algorithms targeting E2E ETHER network performance optimization.
- Develop AI-enabled resource optimization algorithms, ensuring that each service’s QoS/QoE requirements are met transparently concerning the radio access domain the user equipment is in.
- Develop efficient predictive analytics for end-to-end service-level network optimization.
- Develop an optimization algorithm to efficiently allocate SDN controllers in NTN architectures to maximize the QoS.
- Develop an SDN-based control plane capable of managing multiple domains in a multi-tenancy NTN environment.
i2CAT will also play a crucial role in Work Packages 3 – Key Technological Enablers for the seamless and energy-efficient ETHER Network Operation – and 5 – Technology Integration and Live Demonstration of ETHER technologies –. Within the WP3, i2CAT will lead Task 3.2 “Dynamic spectrum management and power control leveraging software-defined payload in aerial and space ETHER layers”, that will define a set of assets and resources (i.e., limited ones, like bandwidth or satellite CPU usage) present in the different aerial and space layers of the ETHER architecture involved in the service provisioning and a set of performance indicators. Within WP5, i2CAT will lead Task 5.3 “ETHER flexible payload-enabled service provisioning to semantics-aware and delay-tolerant IoT applications” that concerns the final lab-scale evaluation of the first ETHER use case. It will take place at the premises of i2CAT, where the horizontal handover algorithms developed within T3.4 will be incorporated into the testing platform of i2CAT, and their performance to deliver seamless connectivity to delay-tolerant IoT devices will be evaluated.
ETHER will boost the EU scientific and research capacity on:
- ihybrid TN-NTNs
- MANO systems for zero-touch integrated network management
- AI-based solutions for E2E integrated network performance optimization by granting open access rights to project innovations and wide-scale dissemination of results.
- ETHER’s softwarized and virtualized architecture aligns with the O-RAN initiative goals of more “open” networks that solve interoperability issues and reduce the TCO, by means of an “open market”, leading to higher investment opportunities.
- ETHER innovations will be promoted into the related standardization groups, placing Europe at the forefront of standardization activities into future 6G and beyond sustainable networks.
- ETHER’s energy efficient solution will bring OPEX reduction benefits due to lower power consumption-related costs of network operators.
- The integration of alternative access technologies offered by ETHER will improve the ratio of revenues to network expansion costs in areas where the provision of terrestrial network-based coverage was not economically justified.
- ETHER will open the path for European vendors to produce infrastructure compatible with the 6G standards that is pertinent to achieving the related outcomes. This ranges from hardware-based components, such as antennas for handheld devices and SDN controllers for the different network layers to AI-based algorithms for managing the resources of the hybrid network. It will strengthen their global market position due to the prompt implementation of new regulations, improve their access to foreign markets, and improve the quality of their products and services. In addition, the patenting of such solutions will be used as means to promote further innovation and encourage economic development.
- ETHER will drive research innovations in 6G and beyond sustainable networks with the upper goal of creating a circular economy telecommunications network by 2050 to align with the Green Deal targets, leveraging autonomously powered non-terrestrial platforms in contrast to power-grid dependent terrestrial-only infrastructure.
- ETHER bridges the digital divide between the urban and the unserved/underserved areas. Hence, the proliferation of connectivity-based digital services has enabled the areas without network coverage so far, severely handicapping critical healthcare services and certain sectors of the economy, e.g., agriculture, forestry, inland-water and maritime transport, unmanned aviation, etc.
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or [name of the granting authority]. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.