Call for Pilot Study proposals for EPSRC UK-India Future Networks Initiative (UKI-FNI)
Closing date for applications: 23rd September 2022
Part of a strategic collaboration with scientists and engineers in India. The UK-India Future Networks Initiative (UKI-FNI) explores advanced innovations in supply chains for hardware and software systems. Providing connectivity and services for future digital networks, and a joint vision and research strategy in Beyond 5G and 6G.
As part of the UKI-FNI Project, applicants are invited to apply for short‐term pilot research study funding from the EPSRC UK-India Future Networks Initiative, set up as a priority collaboration area by the ICT Theme led by EPSRC. These pilot studies will be no longer than 6 months in duration and are intended to test new ideas or create novel linkages between research areas.
The priority areas for applications are as follows:
- Research that develops our understanding of impact and opportunities linked to vendor and service diversification of digital telecommunications infrastructure, in particular Open-RAN, drawing upon the recommendations of the recent DCMS Report on Telecommunications Diversification.
- Design of scalable architectures for next generation of mobile communications networks
- Research that deepens our understanding of, and demonstrates applications of Open-RAN for Industry in areas such as new 5G+ network design and infrastructure planning, service deployments, network management and control, interoperability with legacy systems in mobile and fixed-line networks
- Regulatory and Legal aspects of managing future networks that co-exist with major vendor deployments.
- Data Trust and governance of future network systems and their impact on service provider business models
We are seeking applications that also consider other cross-cutting themes relating to the future digital telecommunications sector in UK and India, covering areas such as:-
- Ensuring Cyber Security and Resilience of Open-RAN Systems
- Monitoring end-to-end QoS and SLAs across Open-RAN and legacy networks
- Technology Interoperability
- Power efficient solutions and Contribution to Net Zero- Energy Efficiency of future Vendor-agnostic converged networks
- MIMO antennas and algorithms
- OSS and AI-enabled orchestration
- Slice enabler
- Ensuring SLAs across fixed-wireless-Satcom boundaries
- Open APIs
- RAN Virtualisation
- Net Accelerators
- Programmable networking
- Hardware-Software security
- AI-Enabled real-time resource allocation and management across Open-RAN control layer
- Service and Application specific- demonstrator/pilot or proof of concept projects
- Reducing energy consumption in base stations
- Intelligent FCAPS with increased integration of Directed-AI
- Reduced congestion, latency and bandwidth consumption between edge- core networks
- Digital Twin for OpenRAN and Open Networking
- Improved agility in support of applications such as health, education, V2X, Digital twins (for utilities)
- Leveraging the UKI-FNI Testbed to benefit UK researchers for baseline experiments, system scaling and regulation
A preliminary Joint Testbed between UKI-FNI Partners Surrey and IISc Bangalore has been developed and proposals may consider using this facility or exploring its further development.
Details of the testbed can be found here. The point of contact for queries relating to the testbed, its technical capabilities and means of access is :
5G Test Bed IT Manager
Institute for Communication Systems (ICS)
5G/6G Innovation Centre
University of Surrey
Note- All the pilot proposals should indicate how they will contribute to the development of a Future Mobile Communications Research & Innovation Roadmap that will be collated by the UKI-FNI Team on behalf of EPSRC.
- Individual projects can request up to £40,000 total funding (total spend up to £50,000 as per FEC 80% funding as per EPSRC costing principles). Successful applicants will be awarded 80% of the full cost, and when invoices are submitted, they should be for 80% and a financial statement should also be submitted showing the full cost.
- Projects are expected to last for a maximum of 6 months.
- Projects must be interdisciplinary in nature and should preferably involve more than one institution or organisation. Interdepartmental collaboration is the minimum acceptable level of interdisciplinary.
- industry involvement is strongly encouraged and proposals should indicate how this engagement is supported.
- Projects should strive to also involve and engage with real users as part of any validation
- Projects should be able to demonstrate reasonable prospects of continuation funding to enable sustainable development.
- Funding is for academic research teams led by UK Universities and only UK-based academic salary costs will be covered.
- Applications must be made on the UKI-FNI application form and must not exceed 8 pages, minimum font size 11 Arial. They must be accompanied by a Gantt chart project plan.
- Applicants must be eligible for EPSRC funding. A list of eligible organisations to apply to EPSRC is provided at: https://www.ukri.org/funding/how-to-apply/eligibility/ As this call is a targeted funding opportunity provided via EPSRC funding, higher education institutions, and some research council institutes and independent research organisations are eligible to apply. For funding rules, guidelines and guidance on the type of support that may be sought please see: https://epsrc.ukri.org/funding/applicationprocess/fundingguide/ .
- We do agree GDPR compliant policies and Data Processing Agreements between the successful institution and the University of East Anglia. If these cannot be agreed within a certain timeframe, we reserve the right to abandon the contract process and select another proposal.
- All awards are subject to the continued funding being received from EPSRC.
Proposals will be assessed in two stages:
The review process is a paper exercise based solely on the completed application form. The review process will be carried out the by the UKI-FNI Network Plus Leadership Team. Members of the UKI-FNI Advisory Board will also conduct reviews dependent on their expertise.
- Stage 1: Preliminary sift. This is done against the criteria for applications e.g. relevance to UKI-FNI Network, fit to priority areas etc. and correct completion of the application form.
- Stage 2: Detailed Review of remaining proposals. Reviewers will assess the applications against the following criteria. Marks will be recorded on a spreadsheet form and scores amalgamated. The prioritised list will then be reviewed by the Leadership Team in terms of topics addressed, and the highest ranked projects funded subject to available funds and quality criteria having been met.
- There will not be a rebuttal stage.
Proposal Suitability for the call:
- Does the proposal map to the UKI-FNI Network?
- Is it novel research?
- Is it relevant to the call themes?
- Does the proposal give articulation of research problem and “so-what factor (what makes this project stand out?)
- Is there evidence that the proposers have taken ED&I into account?
- Have the applicants considered UKRI Trusted Research Policies
- Does the proposal articulate a plan to identify the research challenges and priority areas for Future Mobile Communications Research & Innovation Roadmap?
- How will the project help grow and sustain the UKI-FNI Network?
- Standard EPSRC assessment criteria will also be applied: Scientific Quality; Importance; Impact; The applicant’s ability to deliver the proposed project within budget and in time.
- Evidence of a planning and management process for the duration of the project will be required.
Pilot Project Management
The UKI-FNI Network operations team will be the point of liaison between the UKI-FNI investigators and the successful pilot projects. The Pilot projects will be required to keep us informed of progress (e.g. Via reports, a web site or a blog) and take part in network activities as appropriate to the project.
Projects will need to submit a report on the activities and outcomes of the projects, along with their invoice within a month of the end of the pilot project (a template will be provided).
Regarding intellectual assets created as part of the funded projects, we will follow the EPSRC guidelines: https://epsrc.ukri.org/funding/applicationprocess/basics/ip/ .
It is expected that the outputs of any project will be shared with the UKI-FNI Management Board for inclusion in the project web site and other promotional materials to inform the Network as a whole and wider public in an appropriate and timely manner in such a way as to achieve some of the main aims of the funding, that is growing the Network and its associated research base.
The funding will be awarded via a sub-contract with the University of East Anglia, which will specify the agreed terms and allow for any issues with respect to background IP to be highlighted. UEA Research Office colleagues will engage with the successful projects to agree terms.
- Call formally announced July 2022
- Deadline for applications submitted by e-mail to the admin team at firstname.lastname@example.org by 23rd September 2022
- Successful applicants will be notified by October/November 22 period
- Successful projects starting by December 22 subject to contracts.
UK- India Testbed Technical Report (UKI-FNI project)
The UKI-FNI project will support the design, deployment and operation of joint testbeds for field trials of new Open-RAN systems, management software and components in diverse regulatory regimes. The testbed connecting India and UK will be used to develop advanced algorithms test innovative solutions in hardware, software and protocols that will support the future integration of high-speed mobile systems with metro and core optical communications networks. This testbed enables researchers to test the performance of new emerging Open RAN technology and beyond applications based on latency, bandwidth, quality of experience, signalling and various traffic, safeguard policy and security interests. It gives researchers, the ability to test new 6G algorithms before they are used in live commercial networks. This report provides some details about the UK-India testbed architecture, its topology, the hardware components, the communication protocols and link speeds. It also gives some information about the availability of test bed, how to access it and the types of experiments it could support.
Surrey Testbed Architecture
The 5G/6G Innovation Centre testbed covers four square kilometres of the University of Surrey campus, as shown in Figure 1, and offers 5G infrastructure including 4G and 5G core network and 4G and 5G radio access.
The testbed supports domestic (UK) projects as well as European and International projects. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are in a partnership with the centre, in order to use the testbed to test different aspects of 5G technologies, such as 5G applications, cyber-security on 5G technology and 5G network slicing.
The testbed offers a multi-RAT facility covering the University Surrey campus, featuring both outdoor and indoor radio deployments, supporting for 4G/LTE and 5G/NR, both in non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) modes.
As shown in Figure 1 the RAN is distributed over 44 outdoor sites, each providing either 4G/LTE, 5G/NR, or a possible combination of both. These are connected to the BBUs distributed across two machine rooms in the 5G/6GIC centre.
Regarding 4G, these include an outdoor coverage by an ultra-dense centralised RAN (C-RAN) consisting of 40 4G-TDD sites distributed into 56 cells of which 3 macro cells of 3 cells each. These 4G sites support 2.6GHz band, carrier aggregation (2CA) and 4×4 MIMO.
Concerning 5G, the testbed includes an outdoor coverage by a distributed RAN (D-RAN) consisting of 7 5G-TDD sites distributed in 9 cells with 3 BBUs, including support for enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) communications and of ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC) RAN on one site of a single cell. These 5G sites support 3.5GHz band and advanced 64×64 MIMO.
Concerning indoor in the 5G/6GIC, the testbed supports coverage by a C-RAN consisting of 3 4G-TDD cells and a single 5G NSA pair, distributed across two floors in the ICS, covering 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands.
Concerning the core network, the testbed also features a 3GPP Release 15 and Release 16 4G and 5G compatible cores, designed and developed both for E-UTRA/NR dual connectivity (EN-DC) NSA control-plane user-plane separation evolved packet core (CUPS-EPC) and SA 5G scenarios, deployable as CNF/VNF.
With regards to infrastructure, the testbed hosts two server machine rooms hosting multiple physical computing facilities and broadband units (BBUs) for 4G and 5G.
The 5G/6GIC testbed is interconnected with the India Institute of Science (IISc) testbed via the topology reported in Figure 2. The radio architecture is based on 5G distributed RAN with RRU interconnected via CPRI optical cables to BBUs hosted in the 5G/6GIC datacentre. These have 10Gbit links to a 10Gbit SDN network patched up to our 5G core network and network operation centre deployed as VNF and linked up via JANET to the Internet.
The core network running at 5G/6GIC is running in the internal datacentre on a Dell PowerEdge R640 (see Figure 3) featuring two Intel Xeon Gold 5218 processors, twelve 64GB modules of RAM, two 1.92TB 12Gbps SSD drives and two 10GbE plus two 1GbE network ports.
The core network server runs an Ubuntu 20.04LTS operating system and is linked via an internal Palo Alto PA-5220 firewall through an IPSec tunnel with the IISc Sophos XG750 firewall, to form a virtual private network, as shown in Figure 4, with further plans to upgrade to a Netpath+/L2 VPN managed by JISC.