Top six innovation facilities

02 March 2015 |

With operators under more pressure then ever before to innovate in order to get ahead of market demand, facilities dedicated to innovation have been cropping up in abundance over the last 18 months.

­Top6innovationSurrey226pxThe 5G innovation centre (5GIC)

Who: The University of Surrey, Huawei

When: September 2015

Where: Surrey, UK

What: In 2012, the University of Surrey announced its plans for a 5G research centre. It has since attracted £11.6 million from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, followed by an additional £24 million from mobile operators and infrastructure providers such as Samsung, Rohde & Schwarz and Telefonica Europe. Last November, Huawei, a founding member of the 5GIC, pledged a further £5 million investment towards the centre which will be used as an independent facility for researching and trialling 5G technologies.

Upon completion in September 2015, the facility is expected to deliver a live 5G infrastructure network covering the entire University of Surrey campus, providing nearly 17,000 students and staff with the latest technology. The facility will be used for developing proof of concepts, to validate standards and test vendor inter-operability. In addition, it will be the first of its kind to test new technologies that will pave the way to 5G.

“5GIC is in a unique position to deliver next-generation communications through close collaboration with telecommunication world-leaders,” says professor Rahim Tafazolli, head of 5GIC at the University of Surrey.

The university is developing a testbed which will be progressively upgraded as 5G technology begins to emerge; allowing the next wave of applications and services to be explored.

“The facility is open to all members and partners from anywhere in the world, and a low cost means will be introduced for SMEs and startups to test their innovations for 5G compatibility and showcase their products.”

The testbed will be built in three separate phases. Expected to be operational by April 2015, the first phase will focus on initiating and verifying a cloud-based radio access network for an ultra-dense network demonstrating unprecedented capacity to end users. This will then lead to the verification of the new waveform designed for 5G, including sparse code multiple access (SCMA).

The completion of the testbed would put the University of Surrey on the forefront of technology, and it could likely attract other technology funds that would enable it to compete with the likes of Cambridge and Imperial College London who have led in the field.


Top6innovationSweden226px5G transport lab

Who: Ericsson, Acreo Swedish ICT, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

When: March 2014

Where: Sweden

What: In partnership with research institute Acreo Swedish ICT, and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Swedish vendor Ericsson has established the Kista 5G Transport Lab.

­The facility is designed to kick start advances within network transport infrastructure which the vendor believes is key to fulfilling the promise of 5G networks and the Networked Society.

Part-funded by the Swedish governmental agency for innovation systems, VINNOVA, the lab has 10 full-time researchers and staff split between the three partners, with Ericsson hosting the lab environment.

The three companies will use the lab to focus on structural and architectural changes that look towards the advent of 5G in 2020. “We want to show how programmable transport networks can be a platform for applications, user services and network services,” says Peter Öhlen, principal researcher, IP & Transport, at Ericsson Research.

Acreo and KTH are both leaders in transmission and networking research and the unit is also focussed on the development of a stronger cooperation framework between universities, operators and the rest of the industry. Researchers from Acreo and KTH, as well as PhD students, will contribute concept evaluations, simulations, design and implementations for prototypes as part of the development project.

Lena Wosinska, a professor in the KTH School of Information and Communication Technology, said that the lab is a chance to utilise the school’s “broad expertise to solve real problems and to face future challenges”. The focus for the first year will be to develop a DWDM-centric aggregation and metro network solution, as well as small cell monitoring to address network flexibility, network programmability and network performance.

“Ambitious and long-term collaborations like this prove the willingness of all the partners to make a difference, both for the Kista ecosystem and in developing conditions for world-class research,” says Anders Berntson, a department manager at Acreo with expertise in broadband technology.


Top6innovationBrazil226pxInnovation centre

Who: ZTE, TIM Brasil

When: July 2014

Where: Brazil

What: Last year, China’s ZTE partnered with TIM Brasil for the implementation of a next-generation broadband innovation centre in Brazil.

In a three year framework agreement, the companies have agreed to design a centre focussed on the research of broadband technologies such as XGPON, NG-PON2 and G.Fast. The deal extends an existing relationship between the companies, which have been collaborating on network deployments in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro since 2012.

“ZTE is delighted to partner with TIM Brasil to develop broadband technologies of the future,” says Yu Xin, VP of ZTE at the signing of the agreements at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia.

“ZTE is committed to investment in innovations in next generation broadband technologies, which will be fundamental to the development of future telecommunications and information technology services.”

TIM Brasil’s network covers 3.400 cities and approximately 95% of the country’s urban population.


Top6innovationHuawei226pxNFV lab

Who: Huawei

When: January 2015

Where: China

What: With NFV adoption set to grow in the market, Huawei launched its NFV lab in China in January this year. The facility is designed to accelerate the development of the open eco-system for NFV infrastructure, platforms and services.

Based in Xian, China, the lab will also focus on developing multi-vendor integration verification capabilities, and expanding joint service innovations with whecustomers, partners and industrial organisations. “The NFV open lab is an open innovation centre of ICT convergence dedicated to being open and collaborative, expanding joint service innovations with partners, and developing the open eco-system of NFV,” says Howard Liang, SVP and president of global technical services at Huawei.

Cloud technology has been the driver behind a significant change in user behaviour, including demands such as real-time, on-demand and DIY connectivity. With this, new technologies have emerged such as SDN and NFV, the latter of which allows traditional telecoms networks to become faster, more flexible and more open.

Huawei believes that NFV adoption requires operators to overcome a number of challenges such as ensuring the consistency, reliability and interoperability of their multi-vendor products; creating an optimised NFV O&M (operations and maintenance) experience, and identifying new revenue streams.


Top6innovationAlcatel226pxInnovation facilities

Who: Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Labs

When: December 2013 – October 2014

Where: Silicon Valley, Israel, Taiwan, Tokyo

What: A pioneer in the field of innovation, French vendor Alcatel-Lucent, and its Bell Labs subsidiary, has launched a series of research facilities across the globe over the last 18 months.

In December 2013, the vendor targeted Taiwan with the launch of an innovation centre in the country, designed to better serve clients in the Asia-Paci­fic region.

“This innovation centre gives our customers a way to see and experience Alcatel-Lucent products and services, and also work in partnership with businesses from a wide range of industries and markets to develop next-generation services,” says Martin Jordy, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Asia Paci­ c region.

Thus far it does appear to have deepened a number of Alcatel-Lucent’s relationships within the country, and in March last year the vendor secured a partnership with Asia Paci­fc Telecom (APT) for the deployment of an LTE network in Taiwan.

Later in May, Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent’s R&D subsidiary, revealed plans to establish a research centre in Tel Aviv, Israel. Planned in accordance with the vendor’s financial restructuring strategy, the centre is located in Alcatel- Lucent’s cloud facility which has heavily focussed on network functions virtualisation (NFV).

Research at this facility is directed at the cloud and the challenges facing network evolution; largely revolving around Alcatel-Lucent’s CloudBand technology which provides operators with secure cloud services.

Marcus Weldon, president and CTO at Alcatel-Lucent, said that the Israel facility marked a move from the vendor towards solving realworld challenges. “Bell Labs is looking at solving the big, real-world problems that will change the way we communicate, collaborate and connect with each other and with our ‘things’,” Weldon explains.

“We know that great new discoveries and innovations in cloud networking will emerge from our new Tel Aviv unit.”

September 2014 saw a focus on SDN as Bell Labs announced the launch of an innovation unit in US technology hub, Silicon Valley. Weldon hopes that the location of this facility will drive innovation, as the company works on developing networks for the delivery of cloud-based applications and services.

“We know that the full impact of cloud computing will radically change not only our industry but also the way we live, work and communicate,” he says.

“We expect to tap both the innovative spirit of the rich west coast-based technology community as well as the wealth of real-world knowledge from Alcatel-Lucent’s successful IP routing business with its SDN start-up, Nuage Networks, to significantly change the course of the future,” he says.

The facility will be led by Sanjay Kamat, Bell Labs Consulting SDN/NFV group leader, who in his previous role was focussed on techno-economic issues related to emerging technologies.

From one side of the world to the other, Tokyo is the latest city where Alcatel-Lucent has set up camp. Named Customer Network Centre (CNC), the innovation facility in Tokyo, Japan was launched in October last year and is designed to provide demonstrations and collaboration opportunities in advanced technologies for its customers.

A range of platforms are available in the facility, including Alcatel-Lucent’s CloudBand NFV technology and SDN solutions, and it is linked to the vendor’s central NFV Competency Centre in Naperville, near Chicago in the US, via cloud connectivity, allowing for demos and interoperability testing.

“The mission of the Japan CNC is to support in an extremely collaborative manner, and develop concrete customers projects involving solutions that can be rolled out using the latest innovations and cloud networks,” says Nicolas Bouverot, president at Alcatlel-Lucent Japan.

Alcatel-Lucent’s global footprint of innovation centres is an attempt to gather talent from across the globe and the vendor has similar facilities in further locations across the US, France and Brazil; demonstrating a clear commitment to pushing the boundaries of innovation.


Top6innovationBerlin226pxMobile broadband security unit

Who: Nokia Networks

When: December 2014

Where: Berlin, Germany

What: With the arrival of new technologies and services as a result of innovation, the opportunity for new security threats and loopholes arise. With this in mind, Nokia Networks launched a mobile broadband security centre in Berlin, Germany in December last year.

The Nokia Security Center (NSC) comprises a research lab and demo centre with conference facilities as well as its own fully-operational 4G LTE test network.

Focussed on developing robust telco security, the Finnish vendor hopes the facility will make it stand out as a market leader in the ­field.

“Nokia is designing all its products with security built in and is continuously expanding its security portfolio with our own developments as well as with qualified partner products,” explans Marc Rouanne, EVP of mobile broadband at Nokia Networks. “Our solutions improve the security of our digital society.”

Recent reports have discovered that mobile malware growth has exceed that of PC malware, and the NSC is designed to provide a platform for co-operating with mobile network operators, partners, governments and academic institutes in a bid to develop and share security expertise.

“As IP become all pervasive and as security threats become increasingly diverse and sophisticated, network operators can no longer rely on traditional security models,” said Patrick Donegan, chief analyst at Heavy Reading.

"The NSC in Berlin is an important milestone in supporting operators as they seek to respond to the challenges of the new security landscape."