SNOB-5G: The future of a more sustainable and cost-effective 5G network
This project intends to boost the expansion of 5G in urban environments. By using intelligent technologies for wireless connection, SNOB-5G will allow cities to leverage their urban furniture (such as lamp posts, bus stops) to distribute broadband networks and establish innovative services such as intelligent transport systems and vehicular communication for autonomous cars.
MIT Portugal | March 26, 2021
The rise of the 5G network will provide faster speeds and better overall performance for consumers and businesses. It will also propel technological advancements by enabling smart services for cities and promoting innovations with respect to autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence. However, the current overpopulation of urban centers presents new challenges to the development of an efficient 5G network when taking into account the existing telecommunications infrastructures.
That’s where SNOB-5G comes in. SNOB-5G, an MIT Portugal flagship research project, intends to boost the expansion of 5G by fostering a cost-effective, sustainable, and reliable system to deploy secure and high-quality 5G network services even in environments with a high density of devices, sensors, and services. By using intelligent technologies for wireless connection, SNOB-5G will allow cities to leverage their urban furniture (such as lamp posts, bus stops, etc.) and to deploy secure high-bandwidth 5G networks, establishing new and innovative services on top of it.
The MIT Portugal Program interviewed Pedro Diogo, Project Manager and Tech Lead at Ubiwhere, the Portuguese company responsible for leading and coordinating SNOB-5G, to explain the meaning of the project and why it matters.
SNOB-5G > Scalable and Self-Optimized Wireless Network Backhauling for 5G > is a project lead by Ubiwhere in partnership with the Research Laboratory of Electronics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Instituto de Telecomunicações (IT-Aveiro) and the Center for Informatics and Systems at University of Coimbra.
Q: Can you explain what SNOB-5G means in layman’s terms?
A: SNOB-5G is a new solution we are working on to ensure that we have a more intelligent, sustainable, and scalable 5G network. We are designing and implementing an innovative and robust intelligent solution for wireless backhaul connections between 5G units. The backhaul is a network structure responsible for establishing the link between the network core and the distribution units.
Such innovation will enable cities to take advantage of urban furniture (lamp posts, bus stops, etc.) to distribute broadband networks and establish innovative services such as intelligent transport systems and vehicular communication for autonomous cars.
With this intelligent solution, the 5G network will be able to introduce cities to digital techniques that guarantee the best quality of service to consumers.
Q: Please tell us a bit about the current project status and achievements.
A: We kicked off the project one year ago and to date we have studied many different technologies and solutions. We just finalized the overall architecture, which means we’ve established how the system should be built and the typical software components we’ll use.
We are also in the process of creating a testbed in Aveiro. We’re already using wireless technologies such as millimeter-wave (mmWave) based nodes, so now we can test this in a real city environment. Instituto de Telecomunicações has already deployed three mmWave-based nodes in their premises, and we’ve been also monitoring their performance when deployed in a real urban environment (city of Aveiro). We’ve been experimenting with the technology and determining how specific network metrics can positively influence the network coding tuning. In highly heterogeneous network environments we expect to see network improvements in terms of latency, reliability and also throughput, in specific scenarios.
First we validated the technology, and now we’re building the software, what we call the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), that we need in order to demonstrate the technology in a real environment.
In the third quarter of this year, we’ll be testing the technology and have two different pilots running in the city of Aveiro. Both should demonstrate the benefits of having a seamless and transparent integration of network coding in these services when instantiated in a typical telecom environment, with common orchestration tools, in a secure way. While one scenario is focused on seamless high-quality media consumption with intelligent caching, the second is focused on showcasing the reliability brought for our solution in scenarios such as vehicular communications (protecting vulnerable road users).
Q: What are the main challenges that you are facing while developing this work? And how are you tackling these challenges?
A: We need to ensure the technology that MIT is working on, called network coding, can be seamlessly integrated with current tools that have been used and tested in 5G network management environments. This technology should be agnostic to different vendors. We need to guarantee that our architecture can be further integrated in any network equipment supporting SDN.
Stakeholders should be able to take advantage of our architecture and develop their businesses and networks in the most cost-effective manner. We are finalizing the architecture, and we’ll have pilots in the upcoming months so I’m pretty sure we’ll get there.
The current pandemic situation can also have a negative impact on our project progress. This technology needs to be tested in a real environment with people moving around in a city. Performing tests and monitoring technology performances might be a challenge to coordinate with municipalities and telecom regulators. But if large scale pilots aren’t possible, we can still test on a smaller scale and validate that the technology works as intended.
Q: What’s the importance of having researchers from MIT working on this project?
A: It’s the first time we are working with MIT, and I truly believe that none of this would be possible without the expertise and knowledge from MIT researchers. One of the key areas we are working on is network coding, and we want to ensure that their algorithms and findings can be seamless embedded in typical 5G networks.
We have a heterogeneous network, in an urban environment with multiple nodes, links, and paths and that’s where the network coding will shine (specially in mesh networks).
Without the expertise and the already proven technology from MIT, we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we set out for the project, to meet the expected KPI’s and allow 5G networks to thrive in this urban environment.
Pedro Diogo, Project Manager and Tech Lead at Ubiwhere
Q: What are the potential benefits of SNOB-5G to people, society, and the environment?
A:When using the technology and the solution we’re building, we hope to allow regular 5G users and 4G wi-fi users to get the best performance from the existing telecommunication infrastructure. Right now we are holding many video conferences to ensure the correct functioning of the network. Our technology will ensure that the network performs at its best and will allow a steady, reliable, and high-quality connection.
From a user’s standpoint, it enables more reliable networks that are needed for industries such as vehicular communication. Also, because we’re taking advantage of unlicensed mmWave technology, we’re facilitating a quicker and more agile deployment of the new and more resilient high-throughput networks as an alternative to the costly and time-consuming installation of fibre-optics based infrastructure. Because of this, SNOB-5G will have a direct impact on different users and different stakeholders that are involved in this new 5g ecosystem.
Q: What is the expected impact of this project in the next 5 to 10 years?
A:We hope that SNOB-5G will have a direct impact in the coming years by favouring the expansion of 5G networks with a cost-effective, sustainable, and reliable system that will deploy secure and high-quality 5G services.
This means the technology and solution we’re building can be used by Ubiwhere and other stakeholders of the 5G ecosystem, such as telecom operators, system integrators, and even municipalities.
The growth of 5G networks demands a massive and dense rollout of Small Cells in urban environments, to ensure we meet bandwidth requirements, capacity, and have room to grow with innovative services.
With this project we are combining network coding with Software-Defined Networks (SDN) to ensure that we have a scalable and more resilient network. The combination of these two networks will guarantee the use of the right paths and links in order to achieve the best performance of backhauling 5G networks. We truly believe that this will allow the telecom operators and service providers to really make use of 5G and that regular users, citizens, and municipalities can benefit from this technology without having too much impact on urban planning. Our use of mmWave technology means that fiber optics will no longer be the best way to go forward because they are more expensive and need a longer construction planning period for the cities.
This 5G network will be able to adjust autonomously through digital techniques and wireless technologies that will contribute to the creation of more sustainable cities. Additionally, SNOB-5G will offer cities the ability to improve their infrastructures so they can adopt clean energy to distribute the 5G network.
Q: How does SNOB-5G fit within MIT Portugal’s 2030 strategy?
A: Sustainable cities are one of MIT Portugal’s strategic areas and that’s precisely what SNOB-5G is tackling. With SNOB-5G, we are showing how smart cities can thrive when providing connectivity powering novel services and applications to end-users. We’re doing it in the most sustainable and non-intrusive way. We are embedding telecom equipment inside urban furniture for seamless network deployments in dense urban environments.
In the coming years, we hope cities start planning their infrastructures having in mind this possibility of using smart urban furniture with built-in highly efficient wireless networking as something key to achieve this hyper-connected environment.
Q: In your opinion what is the importance of MIT Portugal?
A: The MIT Portugal Program plays a key role in the project by facilitating direct communication with MIT researchers and subject matter experts. This is essential to guarantee the success of the project and more effectively disseminate our innovation. This solution we are building wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have the support from MIT.
Profile: Pedro Diogo
Pedro Diogo is Project Manager and Tech Lead at Ubiwhere and is coordinating the MIT Portugal flagship project SNOB-5G.
In 2014, Pedro concluded his MSc degree in Telecommunications and Informatics from the University of Minho. During his professional experience he has co-founded a health and fitness Startup and worked as a Technical Leader for another Startup.
In 2016, Pedro joined Ubiwhere as a smart cities and software engineer developer. Currently he is involved in diverse R&D projects, namely in innovative research projects for Telecom and 5G, undertaking proposal writing, consortia coordination, and the technical project management.
More about Pedro’s
|– A sport: Mountain Biking
– A trip: Croatia – nature, rivers, mountains, and trails.
– A hobby: Mountain biking with friends. But now, during the pandemic I started a new hobby related to programming and home automation.
– A person: Elon Musk and, funny enough, Pope Francis. Two very distinct people, with a high direct impact on society at all levels.
– A project: A project that my mother is coordinating: Refood Guimarães. In these pandemic days seeing people making an effort to help other people has a great impact on my life and is something that I need to highlight.