b<>com accelerates 5G with French Government Stimulus Plan

Michel Corriou

As part of the French Stimulus Plan, the Government has announced an acceleration strategy dedicated to 5G and future networks. b<>com and its partners have been selected through the "Engage 5G and beyond" project to build and operate a network of national, France-hosted open platforms offering services for 5G experimentation. Michel Corriou, Director of Operations at b<>com, tells us more about this project.

Michel, can you tell us about the genesis of the project?

With the goal of contributing to French competitiveness via the development of 5G uses for the benefit of communities and industry, the Government launched a call for projects in September 2020. Based on our experience in the European 5G-EVE project, which aimed to develop a European platform for validating 5G tests, we positioned ourselves with several of our French partners and were selected. We've only just begun. Supported by b<>com, in the person of Éric Gatel, our Networks & Security PMO, the initiative brings together several players: The CHU de Rennes, Eurecom, EDF, Nokia Bell Labs and Orange, and the Images et Réseaux cluster. It is a great sign of recognition for b<>com and its partners to have been chosen, as it reinforces our position as a leader on 5G issues and beyond.

What does "Engage 5G & Beyond” mean in concrete terms?

Over the next 3 years, we will build and operate a network of open, national, France-hosted platforms offering 5G services for the experimentation of use cases oriented towards health, energy and industry 4.0. A service offering will allow third-party users (SMEs, start-ups, laboratories) to launch their own 5G experiments on these platforms.

b<>com contributes with its *xG Testbed* test platform that offers turnkey environments dedicated to wireless networks (5G, IoT) and security experimentation. All features are pre-installed, from the core network to the radio access. This highly secure, multi-client platform allows tests to be carried out at scale up to external coverage. The platform also offers an à la carte operational hosting and neutral environment operated by b<>com. Through our b<>com *Dome* solution, we are also able to deploy a France-hosted, flexible, easy-to-operate mobile private 5G network.

The project's other experimental platforms are provided by Nokia Bell Labs in Saclay and Eurecom in Sophia Antipolis. The orchestration of these platforms will be carried out by Orange.

Antenne 5G b-com
© Fred Pieau

What experiments are planned?

In the health sector, we are working with the University Hospital of Rennes to develop solutions for the remote monitoring of vital signs, an issue that has become more acute with the COVID crisis and the necessary reorganization of healthcare facilities. We are also working on the deployment of a private 5G network that can be deployed on the fly while ensuring maximum reliability. It is in these two particular areas that the use of 5G is crucial.

On the energy side, the experiments carried out with EDF are focused on the protection of Smart Grid electrical networks. With the multiple sources of energy production, it is essential in the event of an incident to be able to identify the problem as closely as possible in order to cut the grid at the right place and avoid power surges. Using 5G as a control network will minimize latency to promote network availability. Initial tests were carried out as part of the European project, and we are now working on scaling up. At the same time, still in the energy sector, we are exploring the possibilities offered by 5G and augmented reality to improve the efficiency of technicians on service calls. 

Finally, we want to develop use cases for Industry 4.0. (robotics, technical interventions, etc.). This will be the role of the Images et Réseaux cluster, which will be in charge of promoting the project to the region's stakeholders.