The UK Programmable Fixed and Mobile Internet Infrastructure (INITIATE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Understanding the behaviour of the Internet with its inherent complexity and scale is essential when designing new Internet systems and applications. Simulation, emulation, and test-bed experiments are important techniques for investigating large-scale complex Internet systems. It is now widely recognised that classical theoretical/simulation scalability studies for Internet research are unreliable without relevant and representative supporting experimental evidence. This is increasingly important with the emergence of 5G, cloud services and IoT, which lead to at least 2 orders increase in connection capacity requirements and 3 orders of additional devices that require Internet connectivity.
Great progress has been made in the UK over the years on the development of communications laboratories infrastructure in ICT domains such as optical & wireless, signal processing, networks and distributed systems, where the UK is internationally leading. However, UK telecommunications research remains largely segregated in independent optical, wireless or computer network research labs, so researchers very rarely have the opportunity to experiment across the boundaries between these disciplines. Due to the limitations of performing research in discipline-specific facilities, the current UK ICT research output does not address realistic end-to-end Internet systems

INITIATE will create a new, specialist distributed test-bed to facilitate the increasingly large and complex experimentation required for future Internet research. This will be achieved by interconnecting operational, state-of-the-art operational laboratories at the Universities of Bristol, Lancaster (UoLan), Edinburgh (UoEd) and Kings College London (KCL). These laboratories will contribute many key capabilities for Internet research including optical networks, wireless/RF communications, the Internet of Things (IoT), Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) and cloud computing.

Therefore INITIATE will offer the combined capability to the UK Internet research and innovation communities as a single distributed test-bed able to support the increasingly complex experimentation required for future Internet research. For example, INITIATE will enable for the first time experimentally driven research addressing the integration of multi-domain and multi-technology 5G and IoT access platforms with high-speed optical transport and investigate full system optimization strategies. Uniquely, INITIATE will also be able to integrate end-users as part of the experimental process and support user driven scenarios such as mobile edge computing, data visualization and autonomous mobility.
The applicants have an outstanding worldwide reputation for creating, maintaining and operating research test-beds. They have repeatedly enabled remote access to their laboratories for experimenters and they have worked in multiple initiatives involving interconnection of research test-beds either locally, across the consortium partners or at a regional, national and international scale. Examples are: Bristol Is Open (UoB), TOUCAN (EPSRC involving UoB, UoEd, UoLan), NDFIS (UoB, UCL, SOTON, Cambridge), wireless mesh networks for rural communities (UoLan) and the Ofcom whitespace trial environment (KCL), among others. Internationally, the partners have been involved in numerous Future Internet infrastructure projects such as OFELIA & Fed4FIRE (EU FIRE), FIBRE & FUTEBOL (EU-Brazil), STRAUSS (EU-Japan) and GEANT, where they have delivered test-bed infrastructure, developed experimental control and federation tools and supported user experiments.

INITIATE will create an environment for delivering excellence in Internet research, educational and industrial innovation and cross-discipline interaction through experimentally driven national collaboration. The project will also support academia as well as industry and SMEs and will deliver a sustainable engagement model.

Planned Impact

INITIATE will support a wide academic and industrial and SME user base to research and innovate in key future Internet areas: communications, computing, distributed ICT systems, IoT, cloud computing/infrastructure, data science, software engineering, intelligent systems and smart cities. All these areas are recognised as key contributors to local, national and international wealth creation and are essential to the UK economy.

The test-bed will create an open environment for research, education, industrial innovation and cross-discipline interaction through experimentally driven collaboration. INITIATE will be an ecosystem for system driven experimentation with new technologies and applications in realistic deployment scenarios, constrains and, when necessary, real end users. This is the first platform of its type within the UK and Europe, and offers never before seen access to such a wide range of experimental resources, specialist technologies, hardware platforms and software controls. For academia, such an opportunity will generate strong evidence for the viability of research and will facilitate the timely translation of fundamental academic research to industry. For industry, such a capability is fundamental for supporting rapid product design, development, demonstration and evaluation in a real world environment.

In order to reach and attract academic users, we will use our strong connections with JISC/JANET, NDFIS, ARCHER and the EPSRC network COMMNET2, to organise and speak at events and inform the wider ICT research community about the experimental platform. Internationally, we will promote INITIATE at events organised by FIRE, GEANT, e-Infrastructure in the EU, the GENI Engineering conferences and Internet2 Global Summit.

Industrial dissemination will also be extensive. We will widely market the opportunities to potential industrial users. This will be done through existing established relationships, presentations at industrial days organized by the partner's presentations at major conferences (i.e. Globecom, ICC, OFC, Supercomputing), trade shows (Data Centre Dynamics, World Mobile Congress) and national workshops (IET, Cambridge Wireless events). SME dissemination will also be facilitated by the Digital Economy Catapult, which will collaborate to deliver on-site and on-line hands-on training courses with specific focus to SMEs.
Description Significant extensions of the ETSI Open Source MANO solution for enabling end-to-end network orchestration for large scale Internet experimentation.
Exploitation Route The solution will be extensively used in the DCMS 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

Description The SDN exchange proposed by INITIATE has been adopted by the DCMS 5GUK Testbeds and Trials programme as a key architectural element for distributed 5G experimentation across the UK. It has been named a National Asset and demonstrated in public during the Mobile World Congress in March'18
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description 5G UK Test-bed
Amount £16,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2017 
End 03/2018
Description National Dark Fibre Facility
Amount £4,900,552 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S028854/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 05/2024
Description Industrial Engagement Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Present the INITIATE project to industry with the scope to gather requirements for supporting industrial experimentation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017