14 September, 2015

ETNO ThinkDigital Interview: Aiming for the highest standard of 5G in Europe

Pierre-Yves Danet, Head of European collaborative Research at Orange Labs and Chair of ETNO's Research and Innovation Working Group shares advice on what Europe can do to remain a global leader in the race for 5G and how start-ups and telcos can collaborate. 

What research projects are currently being undertaken by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 framework and how are ETNO and its members contributing?

Within the Horizon 2020 framework, there are many projects that are important to telecom operators (telcos) today. Our companies are quite active in defining work programmes through the European Technology Platforms (ETPs) which define the Strategic Research Agendas. These documents serve as the main input for the European Commission to design its work programmes. Telcos are active members of the Networld2020 (Network), NESSi (Software, Cloud and Big Data) and NEM (Media and Content) ETPs.

ETNO focuses on various topics, namely 5G - the next generation of mobile networks; Big Data / Open Data – meaning the possibility to share collected data with a third party under certain conditions to allow the development of a new application, such as localisation for example, or for other commercial purposes; cyber security is another key point in the context of the next generation of networks as increasingly today, we see security issues affecting people and businesses.

The Horizon 2020 framework also takes all vertical sector requirements into account such as health, media, transport, logistics… Telcos need to consider such sectors as they have specific requirements in order to maintain network efficiency.

These are the main areas addressed by telcos in their daily business and via ETNO studies and papers. There are of course other more specific topics that the Juncker Commission is focusing on. The Internet of Things (IoT) for example, which links in with 5G or the interaction between people and applications. The latter includes multilingualism or brain computers for example.

What should the next steps be for European research and innovation funds in the digital sector? Do you have any advice based on experience?

I would say the biggest deterrent to progress in EU research and innovation is the low rate of project selection. Only 10% of project proposals are selected for EU funding. This means that the projects put to the European Commission have only a 1 in 10 chance of being selected. That’s a lot of time and effort being spent on preparing a study and proposal for such a low chance of success. ETNO plays a big role here and gives telcos – who according to surveys are not always well aligned and coordinated on different topics – a common voice and thus a higher chance of being selected for funding. As a key ICT player, it is essential to have the voice of telcos represented in projects. At the time being there are between 1 to 3 telcos within a single EU project. We should be aiming for 4 to 5.

My second point would be to increase public-private partnerships (PPP) for EU funded programmes. These seem to be more efficient in terms of project results and only this way can there be a consistent, overall vision of what is needed for the future. ETNO is pushing for PPPs in all areas including 5G, cyber security, immersive content etc.. PPPs represent a set of consistent projects with an overall common objective. This means that it is far more efficient than a group of individual projects working in parallel without real technical coordination.

My third point is related to Innovation. We noticed during the last FP7 programme, that there is no correlation between the results of a project - which tend to remain in the lab - and the real developments on the market. Of course the projects remain important in the sense that people are gaining skills and competencies, but their work never hits the markets. I think the European Commission should take this into account within Horizon 2020 and push for large-scale pilots to turn project results into reality.

In the case of the telecoms sector, it is vital for us to see real results. We drive services and new technologies, but the products themselves need to be developed by the manufacturers and they should be encouraged to use the results of EU-funded research projects.

The European Commission is working hard to support start-ups under the Horizon 2020 framework. How can big telcos benefit from this?

There are many ways.

Of course start-ups by their nature are a lot more dynamic and can deliver products a lot faster than big vendors. They can deliver innovative ideas and technologies much faster.

As future networks will be software-defined networks with open application programming interfaces (APIs), it will be possible to develop new applications thanks to the specific functionalities. This will allow room for innovation around the use of networks and it will be start-ups who will have the lead on this. Today the core business of telcos is to provide bandwidth, quality services and connectivity; Tomorrow we may have discovered new business models thanks to innovative start-ups recognising the opportunity in these open networks.

The European Future Internet PPP is a good example of how to accelerate the development of new technologies in Europe with the help of small and medium-sized companies. The programme developed the so-called FIWARE platform, providing a set of tools to third-party developers for the creation of new applications and Internet services in various sectors including Smart Cities. Thanks to this programme, many new and innovative ideas have surfaced that we as telcos would never have thought of. It is therefore vital that we work with Start-ups and SMEs.

The EU’s Horizon 2020 also supports SMEs in various funded research and innovation fields, allocating a small budget and making it easier for SMEs to find opportunities in many open calls. Within 2 months it can be possible for a project to be launched with SMEs, thus encouraging fast-paced innovation.

5G is around the corner for Europe. What can Europe do to be a global leader in this domain?

5G is key for the future of Europe. It cannot be considered as 4G+1. It is a completely new network that will need to be strong enough to support the IoTs era. It represents a huge evolution towards a software-defined network and as mentioned before, will provide open APIs to third-party developers.

Today, Japan and Korea are trying to develop a 5G network in time for their Olympic games in 2020 and 2018 respectively. They aim to be the first in the race and launch a pre-standard version of the network, even if this means that certain functionalities are missing.

This is where Europe has to step-up its role as leader. We have the best vendors and manufacturers in the world and should aim for the target version of 5G. A good tool to achieve this goal in the EU is the 5G-PPP, which aims to deliver solutions, technologies and standards for 5G. Europe also needs to have more influence in standardisation bodies such as 3G-PPP or the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance, to make sure that the final version of the 5G standard will be the global 5G and not a subset version. Through ETNO’s Research and Innovation (RESI) working group, telcos, including Orange, are really pushing to promote the 5G-PPP as the unique tool to achieve this goal.

By Joanne Mazoyer for #ThinkDigital, 14 September 2015


Pierre-Yves Danet, Head of European collaborative Research at Orange Labs and Chair of ETNO's Research and Innovation Working Group

Pierre-Yves Danet graduated from the high French engineering school EFREI and joined Orange (France Telecom) in 1992 taking the responsibility of a research group on ISDN. He set up a lab on Home Automation and then moved to the application server research domain. In 2005, at the creation of the NEM European Technology platform, he represented Orange on the steering board and was appointed vice-chair in charge of Strategy in 2007. Since 2007, he has been actively contributing to the NEM vision, NEM position papers, NEM strategic agenda, NEM Summit and global NEM activities. In 2010, he received the Senior grade of SEE (Société de l'Electricité, de l'Electronique et des Technologies de l'Information et de la Communication). In 2011, he was appointed administrator for the SEE in charge of international relations, he became a member of the Future Internet Assembly steering committee and then of the EuCnC organisation committee. He is now in charge of collaborative research – Europe at Orange Labs. He is also the moderator of the X-ETP group addressing the interfaces between Networks, Soft&big data and content.

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