New project aims to prepare Ireland for 6G using Open RAN

15 Jan 2024

Prof Marco Ruffini, coordinator of the Energise project. Image: Paul Sharp/Sharppix

The Energise project aims to use Open RAN as a way to optimise network management, foster innovation and reduce the energy consumption of radio access networks.

A new project aims to drastically reduce energy consumption in Irish mobile networks and pave the way for sustainable 6G networks.

The Energise project aims to reduce the energy usage of radio access networks (RAN) and deal with the escalating demands of the telecoms industry. A report from GSMA Intelligence in 2021 claimed RAN accounts for more than 70pc of the energy consumed by cellular networks.

To address this issue, researchers at Connect, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre at Trinity College Dublin, are collaborating with multinationals to tackle energy challenges associated with future networks.

The researchers believe Open RAN technology has the potential to reduce energy consumption considerably. Open RAN differs from traditional networks by allowing different parts of the network’s infrastructure to be built by different vendors.

Connect said that Open RAN fosters competition, reduces costs and encourages innovation, while AI can be used to optimise and automate network management. Last year, Connect revealed it was leading €600,000 worth of Open RAN projects, which aim to make the necessary hardware and software to allow multiple companies to share infrastructure.

Prof Marco Ruffini, the coordinator of the Energise project, said the goal is to tackle the energy efficiency challenge “head on”.

“Open RAN networks hold great promise for the future of telecommunications, providing the flexibility and scalability necessary to facilitate rapid deployment of advanced communication services,” Ruffini said. “Our approach aims to integrate AI to optimise these networks, also making them more environmentally sustainable.”

The Energise project includes support from Intel and experts from Tyndall National Institute, Software Radio System, VMware and Dell. The project is being funded by a €2.3m grant from Ireland’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF).

Towards the end of 2023, 12 projects received a total of €58.8m from this fund to develop various technologies for eventual commercial application. One of those projects is the National Space Subsystems and Payloads Initiative, which aims to help Ireland develop its own sustainable space industry.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic