08 Jun 2017   |   Network News

5G is serving the factory of the future in Otaniemi, Finland

Aalto University’s test network gives companies the opportunity to develop new solutions.

As a system that is faster, extremely safe and reacts without delay, 5G outperforms its predecessor in three ways. Expected to enter the market at the end of this decade, the technology is already being tested at Aalto University as part of the Tekes-funded TAKE-5 project.

‘Our 5G test network in Otaniemi uses the core network created at Aalto. This is linked to the University of Helsinki’s Kumpula campus, Tampere and Oulu, which means that companies all over Finland can participate in testing,’ explain Professor Raimo Kantola and Research Manager Jose Costa-Requena.

The arrival of 4G delighted consumers, but companies will be the biggest beneficiaries of 5G. The unique factory of the future learning environment is already operating at Aalto’s recently opened Bioproduct Centre. In addition to 5G, it utilises cloud technology and virtualisation as well as technology provided by partner ABB.

‘It’s expensive and difficult to lay cables everywhere, and also impossible when working with moving equipment. As a result, a super-reliable and data-secure wireless network plays a key role, especially in industrial Internet applications. 5G’s extremely short delay time of just one millisecond is also important, for example, in control loops – in other words, situations where measurements are used to control a process,’ explains Kantola.

The closed box problem

The possibilities of 5G are also being studied elsewhere, but Aalto’s test network has one advantage in comparison to many others.

‘Since we designed and installed the entire system, including the firewall, we can make more extensive and flexible changes than wouldn't be possible if the system came from somewhere else. Our partners who want to study and develop new innovations also have the same opportunities,’ emphasises Costa-Requena.

‘One of the big reasons for the slowing pace of innovation in telecommunications is the fact that the functionalities come in boxes delivered by a single supplier, and they can’t be modified in any way,’ adds Kantola.

The aim is to expand the coverage of Aalto’s test network in the near future and make it easier to use by partners. At this time, the campus has nine base stations, five outdoors and four indoors. VTT, which is a partner in the development work, also has 10 base stations.

‘Improving indoor coverage would allow greater use of 5G, especially in teaching. We have our own SIM cards and students could participate in, for example, code and application development,’ envisions Costa-Requena.

TAKE-5 is a Tekes-funded project, whose duration is three years. The project participants are Aalto University, University of Helsinki, Tampere University of Technology and VTT. The companies currently involved in the project are Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, Coriant Oy, Efore, EXFO, ECE, Rugged Tooling and Magister. TAKE-5 is part of broader 5GTNF Test network in Finland partially funded by Tekes in the 5th Gear programme.

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