The Internet is expanding towards mobile wireless connectivity rapidly. However, to enable this for increasing numbers of users and connected devices, and increasingly bandwidth-, processing power- and energy-hungry applications, will require a transformation in the way in which current mobile and wireless networks perform. Shorter wireless distances (small cells, picocells, femtocells) and different network types for the connection (WiFi, 3G, 4G, 5G) depending on the availability and suitability for different applications, is a process that is already happening and expected to continue. This will manifest itself with simpler remote radio heads providing coverage in otherwise difficult to penetrate locations (and the main processing functions gathered together in a centralised pool of base station baseband units), and with the appearance of new wireless standards. NIRVANA takes this evolution and proposes a transformative step: the incorporation of fast, hardware-based, network monitoring, and intelligence (using the monitoring/gathered information) close to the pool of base stations. The proximity of the intelligence enables low-overhead control of a range of operational functions, which allow users to be moved from one connection type to another, according to their application and the load on the network, and to match the network’s resources precisely to user needs. It allows energy efficiency to be optimised throughout the network and in the mobile device, too. The latter is augmented by locating the computing resources for a ‘mobile cloud’ near the base station pool. Some processing is offloaded to the mobile cloud instead of being done on the mobile, and even some mobile-to- mobile communication may be done within this cloud – saving the mobile device (and the network) energy that would have been used in radio transmissions. Finally, among the new wireless connection types to be investigated, millimetre-wave communications, using the most up- to-date releases of the wireless local area network standard (802.11ad/j), will be fashioned into a device-to-device mesh network, for mobile distributed caching, which will be shown to further enhance the capacity of the network and its energy efficiency. Key industry partners (EE, JDSU, Qualcomm, BT, NEC, Techgate) are involved.
Congratulations to Nathan Gomes, Huiling Zhu and Jiangzhou Wang from the School of Engineering and Digital Arts upon the award of an EPSRC grant totalling £926,417, for ‘NIRVANA: iNtelligent, Heterogeneous VirtuAlised Networking infrAstructure’. The University of Essex is also an academic collaborator.