The University of Glasgow is now a full member of a United Nations agency which is aiming to develop international standards for future autonomous networks.
Dr Paul Harvey, of the University’s James Watt School of Engineering, will lead the University’s contribution to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN’s specialized agency for information and communication technologies.
The ITU-T works to develop the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect and to improve underserved communities’ access to ICTs worldwide.
Dr Harvey has been part of the ITU-T Focus Group on Autonomous Networks since it was established in 2020, acting as co-chair for one of its working groups.
He also played a key role in co-ordinating international Build-a-thon events to crowdsource new concepts for autonomous communications networking.  
At a meeting in March, the focus group received further support from the United Nations ITU-T to continue its work until the end of 2023. The University was confirmed as a member of the ITU-T, and ongoing supporter of the group and its work.
The focus group brings together experts from around the world to develop technical reports and specifications which will underpin future communications technologies using 5G networks and beyond.
Autonomous networks will use technologies, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, to ensure that advanced communications networks can manage challenges in everyday operations with minimal human oversight.
They will also have the ability to develop their own solutions to unforeseen situations, ensuring continuity of communications services.
Since the focus group was convened, it has produced 40 new use cases for autonomous networks and a series of technical specifications on trust in autonomous networks and architecture frameworks. Work is also ongoing on proof-on-concept activities which demonstrate use cases for future autonomous networks.
Dr Harvey said: “I’m pleased to be lending my support to the ITU-T Focus Group on Autonomous Networks as it enters its third year of work, and I’m delighted that the University of Glasgow is now an official supporting institution for the group’s work.
“The work the group has done so far has explored critically important high-level questions about how tasks and resources are efficiently allocated in autonomous networks, and how we can use evolutionary computing, simulators, and digital twins to test those ideas and ensure the systems can be trusted to work reliably.
”Over the course of this next period, we’ll be working to push those questions towards being codified into a set of international standards for autonomous networks, which we hope to do before the end of 2023.
“We’ll also be looking at what we call the technical enablers – the real-world equipment and technologies available that could help build autonomous networks using the specs and standards we have developed – and further exploring how those standards could map to others which have already been set out.”