Intel Ireland has signed a two-year research agreement with CONNECT, the world-leading Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for future networks and communications at Trinity College Dublin. The research partnership, which is worth €600,000, will focus on making Passive Optical Networks (PONs) capable of supporting 5G wireless network cells and edge computing nodes in order to deliver new applications such as high-speed mobile streaming, augmented reality and autonomous driving.  

PONs are already widely used to provide fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband and are the technology of choice for the National Broadband Plan (NBP). More work is required, however, to achieve the low latency and flexibility needed to host 5G-and-beyond networks.

The new research project, 'Beyond 5G, Multi-tenant Low Latency Architectures', will use network virtualisation and software-defined networking to investigate how the high network densification envisaged by 5G can he delivered in a cost effective, scaled manner.

Intel, via their R&D team in Shannon, Co. Clare, and CONNECT have already successfully collaborated to develop a Virtual PON platform, which makes use of the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK), to provide new multi-tenant and multi-service capability. DPDK is used to speed up network-related functions on servers.

Prof Marco Ruffini, Principal Investigator at CONNECT in Trinity, said: “This collaboration with Intel has huge potential for tackling a central challenge facing the development of future communication networks - how do we provide low-cost ubiquitous fibre connectivity to the large number of 5G small cells and to the edge computing nodes so that the ambition of a fully connected society can be realised. The project will use CONNECT’s Open Ireland research infrastructure, which is funded by SFI, to provide the physical network to test the technology in a live outdoor environment as well as in the traditional laboratory setting. Recently our team in CONNECT successfully extended the PON architecture to include support for mesh traffic patterns, which is a key step towards integration of wireless and edge computing nodes.”

CONNECT’s Executive Director, Dr Pat Kelly, welcomed the signing of the new research agreement: “We are delighted to sign another research agreement with Intel. This work addresses a complex real-world challenge facing future communications networks. The project will combine Intel’s innovative approach with the deep research knowledge of the CONNECT team. Research partnerships between industry and academia are playing a critical role in the development of solutions for the real-world challenges facing the development of our next-generation networks.”

Brian Aherne, General Manager Intel Shannon, said: “Our ongoing research collaboration with the CONNECT Centre provides the perfect opportunity for Intel to help explore and define the future of networking infrastructure and to showcase the value delivered by the Intel platform for 5G and beyond. The expertise and industry outreach from within Ireland, is a great asset for the TCD research partnership and the broader communications industry in Ireland.”

Bernie Capraro, Intel Research Manager, added: “Intel Shannon’s research engagement with the SFI CONNECT Centre hosted by TCD is another great example of Intel’s commitment to perform world class research in Ireland.  Together with our silicon research activities within the SFI AMBER Centre, and our silicon and photonics engagements with the Tyndall National Institute and the SFI IPIC Centre in Cork, we have many facets of our business engaged in meaningful research collaborations which are helping Intel make informed decisions around our Technology developments for the future. This University-based research in Ireland is a major pillar of activity within our strategic University engagements, the 'Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)' which also help us develop a technical talent pipeline for our future operations.  TCD was the first of six Irish Universities to formulate and sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with us in 2015, and their collaboration with us over the years has been instrumental to a widened awareness of Intel within the University, and across the region.”