Nokia and Inria sign a four year collaboration designed ‘to solve the key scientific challenges linked to the evolution of networks and network applications.’

The two firms are extending their collaboration for another four years as their boffins collectively scratch their heads and try to work out what networks will look like in the future. The new collab will create 15 new PhD student and post-doctoral researcher employment opportunities at Nokia Bell Labs and Inria, and will specifically look at ‘smart networking and edge computing.’

The Nokia Bell Labs-Inria collaboration will look at three things in particular – distributed learning over 6G, AI-based smart network management, and network aware industrial applications.

“Future networks will have to connect digital, physical and human worlds to unleash the innate potential of human beings in the metaverse era,” states the release. What the firms appear to be getting at is that they reckon future networks will need to be flexible in accordance with a wide variety of customer needs – which is hard to argue with.

Networks will also, we are told, develop ‘heightened sensing capabilities, and increased context-awareness in terms of user status and intent, dynamically and automatically adapting connectivity to meet user needs.’ Which sounds like it means dynamically scaling bandwidth, but we’re sure there’s more to it than that with so many smart cookies spending their days pondering the issue.

“Inria and Nokia Bell Labs have enjoyed a rich and fruitful relationship for more than 20 years,” said Thierry Klein, President of Nokia Bell Labs Solutions Research. “Inria is part of the Bell Labs Distinguished Academic Partners program, engaging the best and brightest minds from the world’s top universities and academic organizations to collaborate with us on transforming human existence. This new phase of our collaboration addresses the strategic challenges of the future digital connected world infrastructure and applications, and we are excited about the collaborative advantages of this continued partnership for Nokia, our industry, and society to enable enhanced experiences in a digitalized world.”

Bruno Sportisse, CEO of Inria, added: “Nokia Bell Labs is one of our major strategic partners and I am pleased that we are strengthening our partnership. For Inria, working with a world leader with a European footprint such as Nokia is one of our priorities, whether to position ourselves on major scientific topics, to maintain joint scientific and technological excellence, or to have an impact on the scale of our work. The gradual evolution of our partnership also shows the importance of building long-term relationships based on trust, within a joint strategy and roadmap. Together with Nokia, we will work on the new frontiers for 6G mobile networks, which pose new technological and theoretical challenges, where software design and data exchange must be jointly addressed.

It’s not immediately obvious what the entirety of the above means and how in synch it is with the predictions of the rest of the future gazing scientists out there, but to summarise the release makes the assertion than in the future networks will be 100% cloud-native and support a distributed architecture, they will have zero-touch management and orchestration though AI, and devices will rely on a combination of edge cloud and local near-device computing, resulting in a massively distributed computing architecture.

All of this might be true, or alternatively future networks might take a different currently un-articulated form – time will tell but certainly the genesis of what the telecoms/tech industry ends up flogging comes out of theoretical conversations and research labs like this, so it’s worth taking a look at the big picture from time to time and taking note of where the soothsayers think technological progress is taking us.

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