19th AIAI 2023, 14 - 17 June 2023, León, Spain

ETHER: Energy- and cost-efficient framework for seamless connectivity over the integrated terrestrial and non-terrestrial 6G networks

Lechosław Tomaszewski, Robert Kołakowski, Agapi Mesodiakaki, Kostantinos Ntontin, Angelos Antonopoulos, Nikolaos Pappas, Marco Fiore, Mohammadreza Mosahebfard, Simon Watts, Philip Harris, Chih-Kuang Lin, Ana Rita Santiago, Foris Lazarakis, Symeon Chatzinotas


  Several use cases already proposed for 5G networks cannot be facilitated by terrestrial infrastructure, either due to its small penetration in remote/rural areas or the harsh propagation conditions due to the terrain. Indicative applications include forestry, mining, agriculture, semi-autonomous control of long-range vehicles, industrial services, logistics, asset tracking, telemedicine, beyond visual-line-of-sight drone operations, and maritime insurance. Hence, such use cases necessitate the integration of terrestrial with non-terrestrial networks, which gives rise to several challenges to overcome. The project ETHER aims to provide a holistic approach for energy- and cost-efficient integrated terrestrial-non-terrestrial networks. To achieve this goal, ETHER develops solutions for a unified Radio Access Network and for Artificial Intelligence-enabled resource management across the terrestrial, aerial, and space domains while creating the business plans driving future investments. To that end, this paper discusses a series of key technologies that ETHER combines under a unique 3-Dimensional (3D) multi-layered architectural proposition that brings together: i) user terminal antenna design and implementation for direct handheld access in the integrated network, ii) a robust unified waveform, iii) energy-efficient seamless horizontal and vertical handover policies, iv) a zero-touch network/service management and orchestration framework, v) a flexible payload system to enable programmability in the aerial and space layers, vi) joint communication, compute, and storage resource allocation solutions targeting at end-to-end network performance optimisation leveraging novel predictive analytics, and vii) energy-efficient semantics-aware information handling techniques combined with edge computing and caching for reduced latency across the distributed 3D compute/storage continuum. The 3D ETHER architecture and the targeted use cases are also discussed, paving the way toward 6G networks.  

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