Networks Research Group
Efficient telecommunications facilities are essential for society, for the emergency services, the military and, of course, for individuals. TNO’s Networks group plays an important role by developing and standardising new network technologies and protocols, and designing, deploying and optimising wired and wireless networks to deliver fast and reliable connections for demanding applications, in particular in the sectors of media & TV, automotive and defence.
Networks is working on the next generation Internet, particularly focusing on the following technology fields:
- Content delivery: our work includes session and application-layer technologies for the ingest, delivery, processing and consumption of media on end-user devices for services such as digital TV and online video. We have expertise in media coding and transport, delivery architectures and protocols, and have hands-on experience with prototyping, proof-of-concepts and live trials. Content delivery technology is important for 5G video and IoT applications, interactive and immersive media applications, and advanced TV and online video applications;
- Connectivity: we focus on networking technologies and protocols at the network and transport layers (OSI layers 3 and 4) and on the increasing role of cross-layer links to adjacent layers. The emphasis is on new network paradigms such as softwarisation, virtualization and decentralized networking, which are key ingredients for the core networks in the next-generation internet and in 5G. Our work spans requirements setting, standardization, proof-of-concept development and field trials that address not only the technology itself but also the best approaches for management and control in large operator networks.
- Transmission: this field deals with the efficient and fast transport of bits over a physical medium. We know how to characterize the transmission medium behaviour and how to optimally design, deploy and organize networks adapted to the properties of the medium. We have a dominant position in wired transmission over twisted pair copper and coax, as well as a strong position in RF transmission for wireless access. This knowledge enables us to make crucial technology contributions to the fixed and wireless access networks in the next-generation internet.
Because of the combination of these three technologies in one group, we are in a natural position to explore and develop the growing vertical cross-layer links between these three technologies. For example, we have has developed methods for efficient and reliable transfer of video streams between trucks that closely follow each other in truck platooning situations, with specific connectivity and transmission characteristics. Furthermore, NTW has built technologies that improve media content delivery over software-defined networks and optimize adaptive streaming of video content over access networks based on Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) transmission technologies.
Unique experimental environment
The Networks group has several powerful labs for prototyping, testing and field trials, used for experimentation and obtaining inspiration for technology concept development. The labs and facilities offer unique features that attract industry projects and that strengthen our position in collaborations with partners in joint projects.
- The medialab: our development facility for advanced orchestrated media services. The lab has all elements in the end-to-end delivery chain for media and is used for developing, prototyping, testing and experiencing new applications. Recent additions to the lab are a complete SCTE chain for next-generation synchronised TV services and a VR streaming testbed for low-latency, high quality tile-based VR 360 video streaming. The lab has an UHD video capture & playout system with an immersive video wall (6K by 4K resolution).
- The Hi-5 platform: our unique pre-standard 5G mobile testbed used for experiments in the core network, radio network integration, distributed management and virtualisation. This testbed allows for experimentation, development and proof-of-concept building using different kinds of orchestrators and SDN controllers for slicing in 5G and fixed networks. The core is linked to several access network modules, such as the OpenAir radio interface and several commercial eNodeBs.
- The Access lab: offers a complete test environment for demanding video and cloud services on fixed networks at the lower OSI levels. The lab has a complete multi-pair copper access network with DSLAMs that can be coupled to a live operator network. This suite has been used to set meaningful requirements for DSL standardization and to design spectral management policies and deployment rules used in the Netherlands and abroad.
- The Networks group has developed the Road Side Infrastructure and Test Management centre of the Dutch A270 motorway and urban test site in Helmond (DITCM). This facility, now commercially operated by TASS International, offers the complete software stack for ITS-G5 communication, communication facilities and cooperative applications in personal, vehicle, road side and central ITS-stations. We use it for field testing and validation in large European projects and will also be a crucial foundation for the large new AUTOPILOT project.
Projects with impact
Networks is able to convert a theoretical framework into practical solutions to strategic and operational issues. Some examples are:
- The Cameraad live streaming platform (in collaboration with Nu.nl): this crowdsourced live mobile streaming application has brought the largest Dutch online news provider Nu.nl a new type of interaction with its audience and more reach for its popular app.
- Developments, achievable bitrates, testing and system analysis.
- TiledMedia VR360 streaming start-up company: our tiled streaming technology has solved the challenge of massively scalable distribution of high-quality streaming VR360 content at realistic bitrates. The start-up company TiledMedia, born as a spin-off from the Networks group, further enables the VR360 streaming market based on this unique technology.
- Technology-policy mappings for European Commission and Dutch ministries: our analysis of key policy questions in the internet-media-telecom ecosystem have changed the course of heated public debates and have steered long-term Dutch and European government policies.
- Steering of 5G industry development: our contributions to the standardization of 5G in 3GPP and a range of industry bodies have shaped the worldwide development of 5G requirements and architecture specifications to the benefit of network operators and verticals that will depend on 5G networks.