Rakuten collaborates on next-gen autonomous networks R&D project

Rakuten isn’t calling its latest research project 6G, but a new collaboration with Nagoya University and Oki Electric Industry will explore and develop technologies for next-generation autonomous networks as part of a “Beyond 5G” initiative in Japan.

According to Rakuten, “Beyond 5G” still refers to the next generation of communications standards to come after 5G, with deployment anticipated in roughly 10 years, sometime after 2030.

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The R&D effort runs from October 2021 to the end of March 2025 and is focused on the theme of coordinated type autonomous networks. The partners want to create key technologies for networks that could respond to communications service requests on their own without human intervention and coordinate different services (such as video streaming and IoT services in this case) while operating without disruption.

A key ambition is more automation by incorporating artificial intelligence into mobile networks so they can self-handle increasing traffic and new diversified service demand. In addition, the R&D effort aims to builds practical applications to utilize those networks. Partners Nagoya University and OKI, alongside Rakuten, also are focused on autonomous operations for related elements, like a mobile robot as well as two-way content streaming through CDN (content delivery network) control.

The so-called coordinated type autonomous network technologies will be linked to the autonomous robot that can move around and adapt to its surroundings with the goal of efficient video streaming and IoT services. For example, streamed video content that’s recorded by the mobile robot would be stored and then delivered to other devices (like smartphones or tablets) and servers through two-way CDN control. The video quality would remain consistent even with multiple robots involved.

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Each partner is focused on respective aspects for the fundamental technologies and applications.

For Rakuten that means R&D into mobile networks that can respond autonomously to different service needs, including CDN and autonomous robots.

The university will look at modules for the mobile robot including for movement and services like cameras, mics, speakers, displays, and video recording elements, that can send requests to the network such as for bandwidth or other needs as the robot requires. OKI, meanwhile, is focused on the two-way CDN control to send and receive high quality video to and from the robots and mobile devices over the autonomous networks.

Here’s a diagram from Rakuten to help illustrate:

The R&D effort runs from October 2021 to the end of March 2025. (Rakuten)

5G is still in its first phases and parameters and definitions for the next-generations of network technology – be it 6G, “Beyond 5G” or “Next G” (which is the name of the U.S. focused Next G Alliance)  – are still to be set, but a number of groups and countries have been starting to lay out and explore frameworks for future systems.

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The R&D collaboration announced Monday falls under a larger project from the Japanese Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) – the “Beyond 5G R&D and Promotion Project” – which recently asked for additional proposals and is focused on increasing the country’s competitiveness and creating new services for next-gen networks.