This is the aim of Professor Stuart Walker from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at Essex University who has received EPSRC funding to undertake the SAMBAS project (Sustainable and Adaptive Ultra-High Capacity Micro Base Stations).
The project includes partners in Belgium, France and Hungary who are focussed on developing a millimetre wave micro base station that uses renewable energy harvesting in combination with energy-efficient hardware and communications protocols to reduce power consumption.
At the networking level, the project aims to reduce signalling overhead and energy requirements by an order of magnitude through distributed in-band context dissemination and energy-aware networking.
Prof Walker explained that wireless communications systems – 3G, 4G & 5G - have focussed on network technical performance issues such as quality of service and quality of experience, so research has focussed on increasing bandwidth, reducing network latency, and ensuring reliable data transmission.
Network protocols, standards, monitoring, and control software have all been optimised towards ensuring the technical high performance of the wireless network, he added.
“In 6G, energy efficiency issues can no longer be avoided, since power consumption generally increases linearly with bandwidth or frequency,” said Prof Walker. “Thus in-band network telemetry [INT] offers an energy-efficient approach to end-to-end wireless network performance monitoring - including end devices - which does not inject any new packets in the network and networking information is collected on a per-hop, per-packet, and on a flow basis. Introducing in-band telemetry into wireless networking needs new packet design, new inter-layer communication as well as new monitoring options for wireless-related parameters, which we will be exploring.”
“In SAMBAS we are aiming to design an adaptive, energy-aware MAC [media access control] protocol that is able to optimise latency and throughput based on application needs, and featuring real-time in-band monitoring data and energy availability.”
He continued: “SAMBAS will be intrinsically designed to feature intelligent energy-aware network management and resource allocation. Combined with in-band feedback, this will lead to a new multi-plane network design enabling fast, real-time, ultra-low latency and efficient distribution of context for network decision-making to ensure optimum energy-efficient operation of the 6G network at all levels.”
Essex University has been developing energy harvesting technologies for wireless networking applications for a number of years. These include solar, wind, and hydrodynamic solutions to exploit renewable energy sources, even at the milliwatt scale.
Prof Walker said this is based on the realisation that if the intrinsic powering requirements of wireless infrastructure (base stations, antennas, signal processing, end user equipment) are reduced, then they become more amenable to powering from micro-generation sources.
“There is a virtuous circle: the lower the powering requirements, the more appropriate become renewable energy micro-generation sources,” he said. “In our proposal, we indicate how using directional millimetre-wave antennas with beamforming training [10dB improvement], envelope-tracking of COFDM modulation formats with 12dB peak-to-mean-power ratio [up to 12dB improvement], supercapacitor storage alongside statistical multiplexing of renewable energy sources (7dB improvement), 10-fold reduction in signalling load and control plane energy consumption [10dB improvements], can all act together to achieve >20 dB (better than 99 per cent) powering reduction.”
SAMBAS demonstrators will take place at IMEC and the University of Gent, both in Belgium, who have a dedicated outdoor vehicular network, and an indoor multi-user interactive virtual reality network, respectively, to test the 6G technologies being developed.