Towards 6G Through SDN and NFV-Based Solutions for Terrestrial and Non-Terrestrial Networks
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As societal needs continue to evolve, there has been a marked rise in a wide variety of emerging use cases that cannot be served adequately by existing networks. For example, increasing industrial automation has not only resulted in a massive rise in the number of connected devices, but has also brought forth the need for remote monitoring and reconnaissance at scale, often in remote locations characterized by a lack of connectivity options. Going beyond 5G, which has largely focused on enhancing the quality-of-experience for end devices, the next generation of wireless communications is expected to be centered around the idea of "wireless ubiquity". The concept of wireless ubiquity mandates that the quality of connectivity is not only determined by classical metrics such as throughput, reliability, and latency, but also by the level of coverage offered by the network. In other words, the upcoming sixth generation of wireless communications should be characterized by networks that exhibit high throughput and reliability with low latency, while also providing robust connectivity to a multitude of devices spread across the surface of the Earth, without any geographical constraints. The objective of this PhD thesis is to design novel architectural solutions for the upcoming sixth generation of cellular and space communications systems with a view to enabling wireless ubiquity with software-defined networking and network function virtualization at its core. Towards this goal, this thesis introduces a novel end-to-end system architecture for cellular communications characterized by innovations such as the AirHYPE wireless hypervisor. Furthermore, within the cellular systems domain, solutions for radio access network design with software-defined mobility management, and containerized core network design optimization have also been presented. On the other hand, within the space systems domain, this thesis introduces the concept of the Internet of Space Things (IoST). IoST is a novel cyber-physical system centered on nanosatellites and is capable of delivering ubiquitous connectivity for a wide variety of use cases, ranging from monitoring and reconnaissance to in-space backhauling. In this direction, contributions relating to constellation design, routing, and automatic network slicing form a key aspect of this thesis.