Smart Networks and Services


We are living in a renaissance of networking research and experimentation. An increasing number of tools and platforms are currently available to ‘hack’ the network allowing us to experiment with new control and management paradigms, new protocols, and new network designs.

Our research focus is mainly driven by the need to meet the challenges of the networked system raised by the proliferation of broadband & mobile network applications, by the widespread deployment of machine-type-communications systems, and by the increasing demand for reliable wireless access for time-sensitive services.

In this view, the recent focus of the unit is on the design, analysis, and development of smart software-centric and programmable network solutions with a clear emphasis on edge computing, 6G networks, and human-driven networking.

Our skills

  1. Solid expertise in optimization and linear programming
  2. Strong domain knowledge on wireless and mobile systems
  3. Observable artificial intelligence for network and service management

Our approach

  1. Experimentally-driven research (system research)
  2. We target high-impact, business-relevant use cases
  3. Available, functional, and reusable software

Our Assets

  1. 5G-EmPOWER: a centralized Software-Defined Radio Access Network (cSD-RAN) controller supporting Wi-Fi, LTE, 5G, and LoRa networks.
  2. LightEdge: an ETSI compliant MEC platform supporting both 4G and 5G deployments and tailored for cloud-native applications and service.
  3. lightMANO: a lightweight ETSI NFO orchestrator specifically tailored for distributed and centralized orchestration of edge computing resources.

The Smart Networks and Services Lab

The SN&S Lab is the point of convergence of all research and development activities of the SENSE unit. The SN&S Lab acts as a playground where new mobile networking solutions can be tested and validated in a controlled environment. In the last 5 years the SN&S Lab has been used in seven H2020 projects, and has been the enabler for several scientific publications in top-notch journals and conferences.  The schematic view of the 5G Lab is reported in the figure below.

The description of the software and hardware components is as detailed below. All software components are cloud-based and are deployable using Kubernetes.

  • Wi-Fi RAN. Wi-Fi APs run a modified version of OpenWRT. An instance of the 5G-EmPOWER Agent runs on top of each Wi-Fi AP enabling communication with the cSD-RAN controller.
  • 4G/5G RAN. Base stations are deployed using a Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) b210 board and running srsLTE. As in the previous case, a software agent is instantiated for the communication with the cSD-RAN controller and the reception of management instructions. Moreover, base stations are connected to the LightEdge Serverless Platform.
  • Core Network. A 3GPP compliant Evolved Packet Core. This functionality is provided by Open5Gs.
  • 5G-EmPOWER cSD-RAN Controller. This component plays the role of Radio Resource Controller (RRC) and is responsible for the configuration and management of the RAN elements. Furthermore, it interfaces with the MEC platform in the LightEdge Serverless Platform to provide RAN-level information about the UEs for the interest of the deployed MEC applications.
  • LightEdge Controller.  This component is responsible for onboarding and running MEC applications and services and for managing their lifecyle. This also includes the configuration of traffic redirection rules and the DNS entries. The LightEdge controller is tailored to interact with a Kubernetes deployment and uses Helm as package manager.
  • LightEdge Serverless Platform. This component comprises the MEC Platform and the services needed for running MEC applications. Such services are the following:
    • Service Registry. It is an ETSI MEC functional component that contains the catalog of services and applications that can be spawned on the MEC platform.
    • Radio Network Information Service. In the 5G architecture the MEC platform can obtain UE information by the northbound and southbound interfaces. Data through the southbound regards UE location and roaming state from the Network Exposure Function in the 5G Core, while through the northbound regards radio bearer statistics from RRC.
    • Message Broker. It forms the communication nexus between the various sub-components of LightEdge. It works following a publish-subscribe paradigm where services and applications can publish new information to a certain topic and subscribe to one or multiple topics.
    • Traffic Rule Manager. It is in charge of routing the traffic among applications/services and the 3GPP network. Traffic rules are issued by the LightEdge Controller and enforced by a L3 switch.
    • DNS Resolver. It allows mapping UE requests to local IP addresses routable inside the MEC Host domain. DNS records are filled based on a configuration coming from the LightEdge Controller or following an activation request from the MEC applications.

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