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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Major Research Initiatives Focusing on 4G


In this article, the most prominent research initiatives on 4G systems are presented. Particularly attention is given to wide-scope multi-partner projects aiming to achieve a global footprint. Based on the number and size of ongoing projects, and taking into account the number of participating partners, Asia and Europe appear to be more involved in 4G-related research than any other area.
Wireless World Research Forum
Established in 2001 by a number of leading telecom manufacturers, the Wireless World Research Forum (WWRF) is a nonprofit organization that aims to create a common understanding of visions and key technologies related to future wireless networks. Despite its European origins, the WWRF has succeeded in extending its range of activities and participation into Asia and America. With key participating organizations and a membership count exceeding 150, it can be stated with certainty that the WWRF is now the largest research initiative focusing on 4G systems. In addition to heavyweight telecom manufactures, numerous IT companies, and a large number of universities from across the globe, network operators, R&D centers, and regulators also participate in this research forum. This gives WWRF an unparalleled strategic weight, not equally found in other initiatives. Given the importance of WWRF, this section will review its organization, views, and deliverables. In a nutshell, the objectives of WWRF are (1) to generate shared visions on the research directions to follow and (2) to identify, propose, evaluate, and promote technologies likely to become the key building blocks of future wireless communications systems. WWRF can be seen as a consensus-building prestandardization initiative aimed at harmonizing views on future wireless networks.

The illustration below illustrates the structure of WWRF and the general outline of the work carried out in each WG and SIG.

Mobile IT Forum
Founded in Japan in 2001, the Mobile Information Technology Forum (mITF) is an industry-driven organization looking into future mobile communications systems. It has grown into a sizable association with about 130 members, both from Japan and elsewhere. The mITF’s members profile is oriented mainly to industry, but there is some participation of network operators and service providers. Connection to the local academia is provided through individual members-professors affiliated to key Japanese universities. The core activities are concentrated around the Fourth Generation Mobile Communications Committee and the Mobile Commerce Committee. The illustration below shows the structural organization of the mITF, highlighting the goals and activities of the 4G Mobile Communications Committee.
The mITF carries out research and development activities focused on essential aspects of future 4G systems.

Future Technology for Universal Radio Environment Project (FuTURE)
The Future Technology for Universal Radio Environment (FuTURE) Project is a government-driven research project in China, part of a major research initiative known as the National High Technology Research and Development Program (or, for short, the 863 Program). Members participating in the FuTURE initiative include local R&D units and universities. In addition, an important number of foreign manufacturers take part in the project through local affiliates. The FuTURE Project has liaisons with WWRF, the European Sixth Framework Program (FP6), mITF, NGMC (Korea), and other 4G related programs. The FuTURE Project advocates the use of multiple wireless communications layers, all connected through an IPv6-based core network. At the upper level the broadcast layer provides access through a HAPS situated at 10- to 30km altitude. Wide coverage is provided by the cellular layer, seen as an extension and evolution of 3G systems into B3G/4G systems. Finally, area layers provide local coverage access, including wireless local, home, and personal area networks (WLAN, WHAN, WPAN).

The FuTURE Project is organized into the following subprojects:
• B3G Radio Access Techniques;
• Wireless LAN and Ad Hoc Networks;
• Multiple Antenna Environment (MIMO) and RF;
• 3G-Based Ad Hoc Networking;
• IPv6-Based Mobile Core Networks;
• Generic Techniques for Mobile Communications;
• System Structure, Requirement, and Higher Layer Applications.

The general requirements envisioned by FuTURE for future wireless systems (B3G/4G) are as follows: (1) large dynamic range in data rate, from 10Kbps to 100 Mbps, (2) high spectral efficiency, (3) packet data as the dominant service, (4) universal use of IP addressing (IP assigned to every possible entity), and (5) low power transmissions and strict compliance of EMC norms. The project has also identified a number of important research topics and challenges key to the development of future wireless systems. These can be summarized as follows: (1) efficient use of space, time, and frequency resources is paramount to achieving targeted performance figures, in particular high data rates, large system capacity, and wide coverage; (2) MIMO systems allow the attainment of large spectral efficiencies (2 to 5 bps/Hz and higher) but practical implementation is not straightforward; (3) time division techniques complement well with packet data traffic; (4) space-time coding techniques; (5) development of turbo receiver concepts; (6) TDMA appears to be an attractive multiple access scheme, possibly used in combination with CDMA and FDMA elements; (7) link adaptation techniques, including adaptive modulation and coding and ARQ schemes; and (8) novel channel coding techniques. Two parallel developments are being conducted, differentiated broadly by the employed duplexing scheme.

Next Generation Mobile Communication Forum
Research activities on B3G systems started in Korea in 2000, fueled initially by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC). In 2002 the 4G Mobile Communications Vision Committee was established. At an early stage, the government-funded Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) was the instrumental organization coordinating 4G research activities in Korea. Today, participating organizations include local and international manufacturers, national universities and operators, and ETRI. In 2003 this Vision Committee was reorganized and structured as a forum, the Next Generation
Mobile Communication (NGMC) Forum. A considerable amount of activities related to future 4G systems are carried out in Korea today. From these, probably the most ambitious in terms of scope, size, and international projection is the NGMC Forum. Most of the scope and goals of the NGMC are well in line with those of the WWRF, mITF, and FuTURE initiatives. The most important targets are as follows: (1) analysis of technical and social trends, (2) vision establishment, (3) standardization and international cooperation, (4) advanced R&D strategies steering, and (5) spectrum allocation planning. The illustration below summarizes the NGMC Forum activities and organization.
The research activities are carried out by three WGs. Their goals are briefly presented below.
1. Market and Service Working Group (WG):
• Analyze trends of mobile communication markets and services.
• Propose policies for the activation of mobile Internet markets.
• Develop new services in fixed and mobile convergence (FMC) environments.
• Analyze broadband services trends and practical possibilities in wireless environments.
• Forecast 4G demands from 3G and mobile Internet markets analysis.
2. System and Technology Working Group:
• Define and select 4G technologies.
• Valuate 4G technologies and set up technical goals.
• Propose technical standardizations in 4G.
• Cooperate with international forums for technical developments.
3. Spectrum Working Group:
• Analyze trends of spectrum utilizations in mobile communications.
• Propose spectrum utilization plans for the activation of mobile communications.
• Discuss 4G spectrum.

The Worldwide Wireless Initiative
The Worldwide Wireless Initiative (WWI) is a joint effort that gathers more than 100 partners from industry, research laboratories, academia, and regulatory agencies. This chiefly European initiative has extended its operational area globally, now incorporating members from America, Asia, and Oceania. WWI contains a series of large Integrated Projects in the FP6 Information Society Technology. The WWI takes a further step towards developing essential technologies for 4G by creating links among important European projects with the aim to produce highly relevant research proposals and concrete results. The vision of ambient intelligence around the user is advocated by the WWI, where the needs, expectations, and requirements of the user will be supported at all system levels. One of the objectives of WWI is to define systems and functions that provide the users with the best possible experience at the lowest possible cost of equipment, use, and maintenance.

Samsung 4G Forum
In an attempt to promote the development of 4G technologies worldwide and address the need for creating a consensus among key players, Samsung established the Samsung 4G Forum in 2003. The driving force behind this forum is the strong belief that industry, operators, academia, and regulatory bodies need to establish a fluid dialog to build sound foundations for future 4G systems through a better mutual understanding. This annual event gathers leading experts from all over the globe to discuss strategic and technical aspects of 4G systems. Every year the forum carries a main theme, reflecting major current issues being considered by the related community. The forum has shown a unique ability to congregate key people from companies, universities, and other 4G related parties to exchange their views and strategies. A brief list follows of important issues that appear to be present in most if not all the visions.

4G should be developed around the user and it should not be driven by technology. It should be a user-centric approach where technology is critical but not the goal.

• 4G cannot be developed in isolation-legacy generations need to be taken into account.
• 4G is synonymous with always being connected, anywhere, at any time, with seamless operation.
• The success factors for 4G are services and applications, research in technology, strategic alliances, and standardization.
• Reductions in cost will give 4G the needed thrust for success; cost per bit and cost of terminals and infrastructure should all be reduced.
• Several new services and application models developed around the foreseen capabilities of future 4G systems show a huge potential for such systems to become widely used.
• The task of fulfilling simultaneously all 4G requirements is far from trivial.
• 4G could be defined with evolutionary and revolutionary components.
4G is a convergence platform: devices, networks, services, and information
will converge.
• 4G solutions are approached through new radio technologies and evolution of cellular and local access systems.
• A joint common definition of 4G and related terminology is missing.
• 4G networks will be highly heterogeneous.
• Battery technology, particularly power efficiency and capacity/volume, is not evolving as future power hungry devices and applications.

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