b<>com *Flexible Netlab*: A real playground for 5G and the IoT

As a test mobile operator since 2016, b<>com offers an antenna system and software radio base station for conducting experiments on 5G and the IoT. Dubbed b<>com *Flexible Netlab*, the platform is spotlighted at the MWC. Michel Corriou, Director of Networks & Security, tells us more.

Michel, what can you tell us about b<>com *Flexible Netlab*?

Our platform is an environment dedicated to technical experimentation (5G, IoT) from early integration up to field trials. All the features are pre-installed, from the network core to the radio access. The testbed relies in-house infrastructure that includes a private cloud as well as interior and exterior radio access networks with Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, 5G, and IoT LoRa. Highly secure and multi-tenant, it makes it possible to conduct tests at scale until outside coverage is achieved. The platform is operated according to a standard Infrastructure / IaaS (Infrastructure As A Service) / PaaS (Platform As A Service) architecture. All of the data is hosted at b<>com, and the administration is fully integrated. b<>com holds all of the ARCEP permits, allowing clients to focus on their core business.

What are the benefits to clients?

In concrete terms, wireless communication systems are built on functional blocks, similar to LEGO® bricks that are assembled to suit its needs, and specifications from standardization bodies (3GPP, ETSI, etc.). b<>com *Flexible Netlab* provides bricks (hardware and software) already assembled and made available, some of which come from b<>com’s own research, while others come from the European collaborative research program H2020 5G-PPP in which we are heavily involved, or from open-source communities. The user can choose to use all or some of them and to incorporate its own bricks. This way, clients have an “à la carte” operational environment.

Who is this platform meant for?

b<>com *Flexible Netlab* is for telecom operators and device makers for interoperability and integration testing, for developers of virtualized network functions, for equipment suppliers, and for security feature developers. The platform also serves several H2020 European projects, particularly the 5G EVE project whose goal is to develop and test 5G infrastructure in Europe.

What are you presenting at the MWC?

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, we are presenting an “embedded” version of b<>com *Flexible Netlab*. The architecture on-site will in all respects match the platform's architecture, making it possible to demonstrate the implementation of “slicing” concepts, meaning cutting virtual networks into slices atop a single infrastructure. This expertise in the 5G communication channel is demonstrated with regard to a “5G Connected Hospital” use case that illustrates the technology’s benefits when it comes to critical communications.