Intel and Connect centre collaborate to improve 5G optical networks

New €600,000 partnership to focus on making better passive optical networks

Intel has teamed up with the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Connect research centre for a project aimed at improving fibre-optic technology so that it can be used more effectively in 5G.

The partnership, which is worth an estimated €600,000, is to focus on making better passive optical networks (PONs). These are fibre-optic solutions that are already widely used to provide fibre-to-the-home broadband, and are the technology of choice for the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The new research partnership intends to find means by which PONs could be adapted to use in mobile technology. While this is possible already, improvements are required to achieve the low frequency and flexibility needed to host 5G networks.

The new research project 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.


"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," said Prof Marco Ruffini, principal investigator at Connect which is based at Trinity College Dublin.

“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,” he added.

Intel, via its 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.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist