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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R035342/1
Title: Transforming networks - building an intelligent optical infrastructure (TRANSNET)
Principal Investigator: Bayvel, Professor P
Other Investigators:
Andreopoulos, Professor Y Forysiak, Professor W Turitsyn, Professor SK
Savory, Professor SJ Liu, Dr Z Galdino, Dr L L
Zervas, Professor G Saad, Professor D Killey, Professor RI
Sygletos, Dr S Lavery, Dr D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr D IVES Dr E Sillekens
Project Partners:
ADVA Optical Networking SE Alcatel Submarine Networks Arden Photonics
BT Corning Incorporated (International) Deutsche Telekom
Dithen Ltd Eblana Photonics Ltd Ericsson Telecommunication SpA
Government Office for Science Huawei Group HUBER+SUHNER Polatis Ltd
KDDI R&D Laboratories Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Los Alamos National Laboratory
Lumentum Microsoft Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs.
National Inst of Info & Comm Tech (NICT) Naudit NPCN SL Petras Internet of Things Hub
Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. University of Bristol University of Leeds
University of Oxford University of Southampton Verizon Communications
Xtera Communications Limited
Department: Electronic and Electrical Engineering
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 01 August 2018 Ends: 30 April 2026 Value (£): 6,105,916
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Artificial Intelligence Digital Signal Processing
Networks & Distributed Systems Optical Communications
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
21 Feb 2018 Programme Grant Interviews - 21 and 22 February 2018 (ICT) Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Optical networks underpin the global digital communications infrastructure, and their development has simultaneously stimulated the growth in demand for data, and responded to this demand by unlocking the capacity of fibre-optic channels. The work within the UNLOC programme grant proved successful in understanding the fundamental limits in point-to-point nonlinear fibre channel capacity. However, the next-generation digital infrastructure needs more than raw capacity - it requires channel and flexible resource and capacity provision in combination with low latency, simplified and modular network architectures with maximum data throughput, and network resilience combined with overall network security. How to build such an intelligent and flexible network is a major problem of global importance.

To cope with increasingly dynamic variations of delay-sensitive demands within the network and to enable the Internet of Skills, current optical networks overprovision capacity, resulting in both over- engineering and unutilised capacity. A key challenge is, therefore, to understand how to intelligently utilise the finite optical network resources to dynamically maximise performance, while also increasing robustness to future unknown requirements. The aim of TRANSNET is to address this challenge by creating an adaptive intelligent optical network that is able to dynamically provide capacity where and when it is needed - the backbone of the next-generation digital infrastructure.

Our vision and ambition is to introduce intelligence into all levels of optical communication, cloud and data centre infrastructure and to develop optical transceivers that are optimally able to dynamically respond to varying application requirements of capacity, reach and delay. We envisage that machine learning (ML) will become ubiquitous in future optical networks, at all levels of design and operation, from digital coding, equalisation and impairment mitigation, through to monitoring, fault prediction and identification, and signal restoration, traffic pattern prediction and resource planning. TRANSNET will focus on the application of machine techniques to develop a new family of optical transceiver technologies, tailored to the needs of a new generation of self-x (x = configuring, monitoring, planning, learning, repairing and optimising) network architectures, capable of taking account of physical channel properties and high-level applications while optimising the use of resources. We will apply ML techniques to bring together the physical layer and the network; the nonlinearity of the fibres brings about a particularly complex challenge in the network context as it creates an interdependence between the signal quality of all transmitted wavelength channels. When optimising over tens of possible modulation formats, for hundreds of independent channels, over thousands of kilometres, a brute force optimisation becomes unfeasible. Particular challenges are the heterogeneity of large scale networks and the computational complexity of optimising network topology and resource allocation, as well as dynamical and data-driven management, monitoring and control of future networks, which requires a new way of thinking and tailored methodology.

We propose to reduce the complexity of network design to allow self-learned network intelligence and adaptation through a combination of machine learning and probabilistic techniques. This will lead to the creation of computationally efficient approaches to deal with the complexity of the emerging nonlinear systems with memory and noise, for networks that operate dynamically on different time- and length-scales. This is a fundamentally new approach to optical network design and optimisation, requiring a cross-disciplinary approach to advance machine learning and heuristic algorithm design based on the understanding of nonlinear physics, signal processing and optical networking.
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