Better Broadband: CONNECT Centre Launches €1M Telecoms Research Project

A €1 million telecoms research project, O’SHARE, has been launched at CONNECT, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research centre headquartered in Trinity College Dublin. Led by Dr Marco Ruffini, Assistant Professor in Optical Network Architectures in the School of Computer Science and Statistics, the four-year project will explore ways of improving the capacity of optical networks to cope with the surges in demand typically experienced at concerts and sporting events.

“O’SHARE is ultimately about sharing network resources to deliver better results for users,” explained Dr Ruffini. “Take the Electric Picnic, for example, when up to 50,000 people gather in a field in County Laois. The cellular network suddenly experiences a surge in demand – up to a thousand times more than usual. The available capacity reduces dramatically and accessing Facebook or sharing a video on a mobile device becomes very frustrating”.

“All mobile-phone masts are connected to a fibre-optic backhaul network. That backhaul network will be the focus of O'SHARE’s work as we explore ways of dynamically allocating resources to areas of poor connectivity”.

“We will also focus on multi-tenancy which allows several service providers to operate the optical access networks at the same time. This will also lead to greater competition in the market, resulting in cheaper data plans for users,” added Dr Ruffini.

Professor Linda Doyle, Director of CONNECT, welcomed the launch: “The ideas in O’SHARE are cutting-edge. As the name suggests, they are about cleverly sharing network resources which will lead to reduced costs while delivering the services users need.”

The project, funded through the SFI Investigator Programme, will involve collaboration with several industry partners including Bell Labs and Vodafone. It will also see the recruitment of two senior researchers and two PhD students at the CONNECT Centre in Trinity.

“O'SHARE also plans to develop an international testbed to demonstrate Passive Optical Network virtualisation,” commented Dr Ruffini. “Our testbed in Trinity will link to the ‘Bristol is Open’ programmable network developed by the University of Bristol. The plan is to demonstrate how operators can use virtualisation to control different parts of network infrastructure and offer seamless services spanning multiple network domains.”

The project launch was welcomed by Doris Alexander, Research Development Manager in Trinity Research & Innovation who said: “Dr Ruffini’s project, O’SHARE, is one of only 23 research projects selected for funding nationally this year via SFI’s Investigator Programme.  We were delighted to support Dr Ruffini’s project proposal which is a wonderful add-on to the SFI-funded CONNECT Centre, a flagship research centre for communications networking, services, applications and technologies.”

Dr Ruffini is a native of Ancona in Italy. He completed his undergraduate degree in Marche Polytechnic University in 2002. He then worked with Philips R&D, before completing his doctorate degree in Trinity College.  He is currently coordinating a large-scale EU project on future optical broadband networks known as DISCUS which brings together key players in the optical field from around Europe.