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Feature Articles: Network Technology for Digital Society of the Future—Research and Development of Competitive Network Infrastructure Technologies

Network Technology Development for Digital Society of the Future

Yukari Tsuji, Shinya Tachimoto, and Masaki Kobayashi

Abstract

As society moves toward digitization, the network supporting a digital society must likewise evolve. NTT has taken up the research and development (R&D) of a network infrastructure called Cognitive Foundation® in order to solve a wide variety of problems in our digital society. This article introduces specific R&D achievements based on the following R&D directions of network technology for the future digital society: (1) R&D of competitive network infrastructure technologies, (2) advanced and smart network operation supporting digital transformation of the NTT Group, and (3) global environmental protection and optimal use of energy.

Keywords: digital transformation, cognitive foundation, network technology

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1. Network technology required for digital transformation

The Internet of Things (IoT) is advancing rapidly, resulting in numerous benefits. In addition to enabling all sorts of things to be connected to the network and massive quantities of digital data (big data) to be efficiently gathered and stored, the IoT is making it possible to improve business efficiency and productivity through analysis and forecasting using artificial intelligence (AI). At the same time, Japan is faced with serious social problems such as an aging population with a declining birthrate and a shrinking labor force and the need to be continually prepared for natural disasters that can cause massive damage. As a result, expectations are rising for a digital transformation (DX) that can solve such social problems by distributing data across the boundaries separating diverse industries while bringing about important changes in society.

As a social infrastructure, the network must be able to quickly and stably provide an optimized network configuration to meet the diverse needs of service operators that manage social systems with a limited amount of information and communication technology (ICT) resources. NTT’s Cognitive Foundation® (Fig. 1) is an overlay networking technology to meet these demands and one of the solutions to achieve DX. This technology covers the network from the cloud to edge computers as virtualized ICT resource groups. It features a multi-orchestration function that acts as a hub for optimally integrating and uniformly managing and operating multiple resources on different layers.


Fig. 1. Overview of Cognitive Foundation®.

Furthermore, with the progress of DX, it is becoming increasingly necessary for the network to support new digital services such as smart cities, MaaS (Mobility as a Service), and FinTech (financial technology) in addition to the current network services. NTT has established a new research and development (R&D) project to promote the study of a new network infrastructure supporting DX and has begun to discuss use cases with the aim of creating new markets.

2. Three R&D directions

In this article, we introduce specific achievements of the following R&D directions of network technology for the future digital society: (1) R&D of competitive network infrastructure technologies, (2) advanced and smart network operation supporting the DX of the NTT Group, and (3) global environmental protection and optimal use of energy.

2.1 R&D of competitive network infrastructure technologies

The first R&D direction is to establish new network infrastructure technologies for increasing communications speed and capacity, expanding connectivity, and lowering costs. The goal is to provide an attractive network for both service providers and service users by increasing the value of our network. These technologies include FASA®* (Flexible Access System Architecture), which converts a portion of the optical access equipment to software in order to switch between a variety of applications including the 5G (fifth-generation mobile communication network) mobile communications standard, and GNSS (global navigation satellite systems), a positioning technology that can greatly improve the accuracy of positioning measurements in unfavorable satellite-signal reception environments such as urban areas while having the potential for use in diverse application services.

2.2 Advanced and smart network operation supporting DX of NTT Group

The second R&D direction is to establish the automatic network operation technologies in order to respond rapidly to service diversification with as little manual intervention as possible. These technologies can be applied to promote the NTT Group’s DX and to improve the maintenance of social infrastructures. In this way, NTT seeks to contribute to the provision of a network that can respond rapidly to the diverse service demands of various industries through a variety of network operation technologies, including those for achieving sophisticated and efficient operations through the use of AI. These include technology for coordinating services, ICT resources, and network resources across the boundaries between various operators and industries and technology for fault detection, analysis, and recovery to enable rapid restoration of facilities in the event of a problem in the optical transport network.

2.3 Global environmental protection and optimal use of energy

The third R&D direction is to establish resilient network infrastructure technologies that take the global environment into account, including decarbonization, with the aim of achieving the United Nations SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). NTT is contributing to building a decarbonized society and creating a novel energy distribution business by achieving autonomous energy control centered on drastic energy savings in a cloud-native network and virtualization of the power-supply network. To begin with, we aim to achieve significant energy savings through such initiatives as optimal design of equipment layout in machine rooms.

Specific technologies that NTT is pursuing as part of these three R&D directions are listed in Table 1. Some of these technologies are introduced in detail in this issue.


Table 1. Three R&D directions and specific technologies.

* FASA is a registered trademark of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation in Japan.

References

[1] K. Kawazoe, “Accelerate ‘R&D for Smart World’ Efforts to Realize the Medium-Term Management Strategy,” Business Communication, Vol. 56, pp. 34–37, 2019 (in Japanese).
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https://www.ntt-review.jp/archive/ntttechnical.php?contents=ntr201906fa2.html
[3] S. Yoshida, T. Kirihara, S. Tsuboi, T. Toyono, and T. Kuwahara, “Positional Information Service with High Added Value Based on Cooperation between GNSS and Networks,” NTT Technical Review, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp. 8–12, 2019.
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Yukari Tsuji
Vice President, Head of NTT Network Technology Laboratories.
She received a B.S. and M.S. in information science from the University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, in 1987 and 1989, and an MBA in the Sloan Fellows Program from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, in 2005. She joined NTT in 1989 and began researching and developing asynchronous transfer mode switches and various services. She was promoted to Executive Director of the R&D Center at NTT WEST in 2013. She has been in her present position since July 2016. She is a member of the Science Council of Japan.
Shinya Tachimoto
Vice President, Head of NTT Network Service Systems Laboratories.
He received a B.E. and M.E. from Tokyo Institute of Technology. He joined NTT in 1990 and worked initially on the development of switching systems. He had a key role in Next Generation Network system development and network integration testing and was also responsible for developing mobile network service applications at NTT DOCOMO. He is currently in charge of R&D for network service systems such as network functions virtualization/software-defined networking systems, operation and transport systems, and the public switched telephone network system.
Masaki Kobayashi
Vice President, Head of NTT Access Network Service Systems Laboratories.
He received a B.E. in engineering from Hokkaido University in 1989. He joined NTT in 1989 and was primarily involved in facility management and planning of telecommunications systems at NTT EAST. He was a Senior Manager of the Corporate Strategy Planning Department at NTT-ME from 2007 to 2010. He also served as a Senior Manager of the General Affairs and Personnel Department at NTT EAST. He has been in his current position since July 2017.

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