ComReg awards 5G test licence for Trinity and SFI network research

21 Mar 2022

Image: © ryanking999/

The test licence will help boost research into internet speeds, reliable mobile phone coverage and applications such as remote medical surgery.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin and Connect have been awarded a 5G test licence to experiment on the next generation of communication networks.

Scientists from Connect, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre for future networks and communications based at Trinity, aim to conduct research on delivering faster internet speeds, more reliable mobile phone coverage, and new applications such as remote medical surgery.

A 5G test licence provides access to a portion of radio spectrum, allowing researchers to carry out experiments in real-world outdoor scenarios. It also allows them to consider environmental factors – such as buildings and geographical features – on the coverage and connection speed of a mobile network.

The researchers said this is important as the behaviour of wireless communications is strongly dependent on the frequency of operation, so experiments need to be done at the frequencies that will then be used by commercial implementations.

“This makes our research particularly relevant to industry partners, and we are looking forward to many new collaborative projects with different companies, including new spin-outs from Connect in Trinity,” said Dr Marco Ruffini, associate professor at Trinity and researcher at Connect.

The licence was provided by ComReg, the general communications regulator for Ireland. This is the first test licence given by ComReg in the new 5G band (3.8 to 4.2GHz).

“This licence will be a key feature of our Open Ireland testbed as it enables deep research on the integration of optical communication, wireless systems (based on Open RAN) and edge cloud,” Ruffini added.

Open Ireland is a €2m research initiative launched in 2020 to support advanced experimentation in communications networks, and was slated to be a “game-changer” programme for telecoms research in Ireland.

Ruffini said most of the remaining challenges in the development of 5G are associated with “intelligent software for network control and optimisation”.

“This licence will allow us to perform research on these intelligent systems by exploring the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence for implementing network customisation and dependability,” Ruffini added. “The creation of network digital twins will also form part of the research plan.”

Connect director Prof Dan Kilper said ComReg’s decision to grant the test licence highlights the value of academic research in the development of “5G-and-beyond networks”.

“We anticipate significant interest from industry and we are open to discussing how we can tailor research projects to fit the interests of those interested in exploring commercial applications,” Kilper said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic