EU Smart Networks and Services Project 6G-EWOC advances the next generation of optically enhanced 6G communication systems

The multidisciplinary project 6G-EWOC, which kicks off this month, will develop 6G technology in support for autonomous driving. A plethora of well-orchestrated technologies, reaching from precise sensing and optical wireless communications to high-capacity fronthaul connectivity and efficient datacentre technology, will be empowered by photonic integrated circuit technology and artificial intelligence to enable this mission. The Horizon-Europe project will not only reduce size and cost of its constituent sensing, communication and processing technologies, but will also bring application-level performance improvements in the context of “connected” vehicles.

Lausanne, Switzerland – January 30, 2024

Sixth-generation (6G) networks are recognised as one of the enablers for modern digital applications across many sectors, by virtue of their support for unparalleled data throughputs, low latencies when transporting and processing information, and their seamless network coverage. Turning these promises into tangible assets depends, however, on the availability of high-performance, compact and cost-effective solutions for practical implementations. The Horizon-Europe project “6G-EWOC – AI-Enhanced Fibre-Wireless Optical 6G Network in Support for Connected Mobility” was selected for funding by the European Commission within the second call of the 6G SNS Initiative. 6G-EWOC’s goal is to link innovative yet user-oriented research on connected vehicular mobility with near-future exploitation of early-prototype communication, sensing and computation systems in a growing market with vast potential. The kick-off of the 3-year project took place in January 2024.

6G-EWOC’s mission is to provide the enabling photonic technology to accommodate vehicular awareness on its surroundings through light-based sensing, the connectivity among vehicles and the road infrastructure through optical wireless communication, a seamless interconnection to nearby datacentres through high-capacity fibreoptics, and real-time computation of the collected road-side data through high-end datacentre technology. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be adopted to enhance the efficiency of several constituent technologies and the orchestration of this vehicular 6G infrastructure.

6G-EWOC will be coordinated by José Antonio Lázaro, Professor at the UPC’s Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering (ETSETB) and researcher at the Advanced Broadband Communications Center (CCABA) of the same university. “The day will come when vehicles will be able to circulate autonomously as a matter of course, since the technologies necessary to perceive everything around them are evolving rapidly. But the important thing,” he says, “is to go one step further and make future vehicles able to drive autonomously and better than humans.” This vision requires a pervasive integration of sensing and communication technology to enhance the vehicle’s intelligence, as well as seamless connectivity to a modern ICT infrastructure: Connected vehicles are able to exchange large volumes of information generated by their powerful sensors, both between vehicles and with datacentres, which are responsible for merging, instantaneously, everything the road-side vehicles detect or “see”, at all times.

This notion, which is referred to as “connected mobility”, requires very powerful networks, with the capacity to manage the vast volume of generated information, and the use of various cutting-edge communication and sensing technologies, such as those coherently developed in the 6G-EWOC project. These technologies range from sensors based on integrated lasers, such as LiDAR, to wireless optical communications for vehicles and the street furniture, which become optical 6G antennas. “Photonics bears the potential for significant performance enhancements, as we will demonstrate through the introduction of a highly miniaturised optical beamformer serving as an optical antenna” comments Michael Geiselmann, Chief Commercial Officer at LIGENTEC.

A high-capacity optical fibre fronthaul will seamlessly transport the large data volume aggregated along the traffic infrastructure to a nearby datacentre for real-time processing of the situation. AI techniques will organize and orchestrate all data flows to various distributed datacentres. Additional AI tools will merge the information of the vehicles in each area, thus building a part of a 3D map and integrating it with the various pieces of that great final puzzle that results from the distributed computing across all areas. Building on this 6G-enabled vehicular infrastructure, drivers and vehicles will receive a detailed and complete map that enjoys real-time updates, thus making mobility as safe as possible.

The 6G-EWOC consortium builds on 11 partners from 8 European countries to address the multi-disciplinary research agenda. It is led by the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) as the project coordinator and the Centre Tecnològic de Telecomunicacions de Catalunya (CTTC) as the technical manager. Further partners include a research & technology organization (AIT Austrian Institute of Technology) with extensive experience in turning lab science into applicable assets. Photonic design and integration of novel component technology will be supported by industrial experts in the field of semiconductor design and fabrication (III-V Lab, Ligentec SA). Small and medium enterprises will advance their technologies in the fields of communication (Bifrost Communications) and sensing (Beamagine SL). The industrial end-user perspective will be provided through two system vendors (Nokia Bell Labs and Nvidia), a mobility technology company (Magna) and an operator (Cosmote).

About the 6G SNS Initiative

The European Smart Networks and Services (SNS) Joint Undertaking (JU) is a Public-Private Partnership that aims to facilitate and develop European industrial leadership in 5G and 6G networks and services. The SNS JU funds projects that shape a solid research and innovation roadmap and deployment agenda by engaging a critical mass of European stakeholders and facilitating international cooperation on various 6G initiatives. Launched in 2021 to set out an ambitious mission and an EU budget of €900 million for the period 2021–2027, it brings together research institutions, academia, industry, enterprises, and policy makers, in a joint effort to advance European technological and scientific excellence to support European leadership to shape and master 6G systems by 2030.

About LIGENTEC

LIGENTEC supplies application specific Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) to customers in high-tech markets such as quantum computing, advanced computing, communication, autonomous driving, space communication and biosensors. LIGENTEC’s proprietary, patented and fully CMOS compatible semiconductor fabrication technology was originally developed at EPFL Lausanne and is now installed in a highvolume 200 mm wafer production line, It essentially combines the benefits of known, low loss material such as glass with the benefits of silicon photonics and addresses with its low propagation loss, high power handling and wide wavelength transparency and short production cycle the main challenges of integrated photonics today. LIGENTEC offers a seamless path from R&D to volume, supported by its low entry barrier MPW services and custom PIC developments. LIGENTEC is based in Lausanne, Switzerland and Corbeil-Essonnes, Île-deFrance, France.

Contact
José A. Lázaro
6W-EWOC Project Coordinator
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)
Signal Theory and Communications Department (TSC)
Optical Communications Group (GCO)
Advanced Broadband Communications Center (CCABA)
Contact
LIGENTEC SA
Michael Geiselmann
Chief Commercial Officer

About the 6G SNS Initiative

The European Smart Networks and Services (SNS) Joint Undertaking (JU) is a Public-Private Partnership that aims to facilitate and develop European industrial leadership in 5G and 6G networks and services. The SNS JU funds projects that shape a solid research and innovation roadmap and deployment agenda by engaging a critical mass of European stakeholders and facilitating international cooperation on various 6G initiatives. Launched in 2021 to set out an ambitious mission and an EU budget of €900 million for the period 2021–2027, it brings together research institutions, academia, industry, enterprises, and policy makers, in a joint effort to advance European technological and scientific excellence to support European leadership to shape and master 6G systems by 2030.

Contact
José A. Lázaro
6W-EWOC Project Coordinator
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)
Signal Theory and Communications Department (TSC)
Optical Communications Group (GCO)
Advanced Broadband Communications Center (CCABA)

About LIGENTEC

LIGENTEC supplies application specific Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) to customers in high-tech markets such as quantum computing, advanced computing, communication, autonomous driving, space communication and biosensors. LIGENTEC’s proprietary, patented and fully CMOS compatible semiconductor fabrication technology was originally developed at EPFL Lausanne and is now installed in a highvolume 200 mm wafer production line, It essentially combines the benefits of known, low loss material such as glass with the benefits of silicon photonics and addresses with its low propagation loss, high power handling and wide wavelength transparency and short production cycle the main challenges of integrated photonics today. LIGENTEC offers a seamless path from R&D to volume, supported by its low entry barrier MPW services and custom PIC developments. LIGENTEC is based in Lausanne, Switzerland and Corbeil-Essonnes, Île-deFrance, France.

Contact
LIGENTEC SA
Michael Geiselmann
Chief Commercial Officer

LOW-LOSS INTEGRATED PHOTONICS