5Qs on 5G: With Alhussein Abouzeid, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Liberation Technology: Co-ordinating research in the USA and Finland, meeting the key 5G challenges.

Alhussein Abouzeid is a Professor of Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, USA. He also has a visiting Professor appointment with the Department of Communications Engineering at University of Oulu, Finland, which is funded by a Finnish Distinguished Professor (FiDiPro) Fellow award from The Tekes Funding Agency for Innovation.

He is also co-directing a cross-national effort called WiFiUS, wireless innovation between Finland and the US on wireless networking technologies. This is a Science Across Virtual Institutes consortium of industry and university collaborators.

Here he tells us what he and his departments are researching in 5G.

Can you tell us the nature of the research you are undertaking?

My focus in terms of 5G is on the design and performance evaluation of algorithms for spectrum sharing and content sharing, multi-operator cooperation, transmission scheduling and its theoretical and practical realisation, taking into account the business/economic models of the market.

So through a number of grants from NSF in the US and Tekes in Finland, I am exploring key research questions about future wireless networks regarding co-existence and cooperation between network entities from a wireless performance as well as business models perspectives. This includes

  • architectural trade-offs
  • incentive mechanisms for spectrum and content sharing
  • scheduling algorithms for achieving optimal performance in real-time settings

The facility at University of Oulu is particularly interesting since it represents the first real-life city-wide deployment of an operational 5G network in a city

Are you taking these concepts into some real testing?

Yes. We are exploring the realisation of these concepts onto testbed facilities that are being developed at RPI and at Oulu. The facility at University of Oulu is particularly interesting since it represents the first real-life city-wide deployment of an operational 5G network in a city, and it resembles the current preliminary plans by the NTIA/FCC/NSF in the US to establish a Model City program.

There’s a lot of talk currently about use cases for 5G. What do you see as the major 5G use cases?

Well, first of all, we all know that current systems have failed in meeting today’s demands, let alone tomorrow’s, so 5G is necessary for today’s needs, let alone tomorrow’s. For example, traditional wireless cellular systems have had to do a lot of patchwork, including offloading to WiFi, in order to sustain the explosive broadband traffic demands. In addition, wireless services are inconsistent, and the peak announced rates of services are hardly ever achieved.

Looking to the future, 5G is necessary to enable us to even imagine many emerging applications that we have had only a chance to see in science fiction movies or close laboratory experiments, such as Internet of Things, immersive environments, mobile everything (from robots to people), cyber-integrated physical systems, smart & sustainable cities, and technology sectors not currently benefiting enough from wireless such as agriculture, healthcare, and others.

The key challenge in my opinion is to keep things simple enough so that it can scale to billions of devices, and open enough so that it ushers more innovation and interoperability

 What will be the major technical challenges as we move into 5G?

In my opinion, the major challenge is to keep things simple enough so that the networks can scale. There are many promising concepts that are being developed by the community such as edge content caching, multi-operator spectrum and content sharing, virtualisation and resource aggregation. But the key challenge in my opinion is to keep things simple enough so that it can scale to billions of devices, and open enough so that it ushers more innovation and interoperability, while maintaining the business opportunities for all the stakeholders. Another major challenge is reducing the cost per bit, in order to be able to carry more traffic at the same or even lower cost to the user, which is essential for the adoption of any new technology.

I view it as liberation from this past mentality towards an open more flexible network that truly complements and morphs with the Internet

Do you see 5G as something revolutionary, and how?

In my opinion, 5G will be, and has to be, the first generation of wireless that does not have the old voice-only license-rigid closed system mentality of past cellular systems.

I view it as liberation from this past mentality towards an open more flexible network that truly complements and morphs with the Internet. So the objective is truly revolutionary, but whether it will be achieved or not remains to be seen.

Today, more people access the Internet using mobile wireless interfaces, and the only way for that to be sustained is through a more agile and cognitive network that is open to scalability, interoperability, and all the “ilities” that have been studied in the Internet architecture community but not in the wireless domain. This is timely since the Internet architecture is also being revolutionised through active research efforts by GENI and NSF FIA projects in the US and similar projects in Europe.

 

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