The Liquid Network.

The recent releases of 3GPP for LTE have introduced the notion of D2D (Device to Device), a revolutionary step from the viewpoint of network topology and operation: direct communication between devices is allowed, exploiting the same radio resources used in the links with the base station. Though it is initially assumed that resources will be assigned by the network schedulers, a more distributed approach is also possible where mobile nodes will identify what radio resource to use for D2D links.

Meanwhile, the concept of Moving Networks for Beyond 5G systems has been introduced in the Strategic Research Agenda of EC, with nodes responsible for radio resource assignment that might move and roam around (cars, drones), serving users through a flexible demand-attentive networking approach. The concept of femto-caching is also advancing, with a distributed and dynamic management of storage resources that might take advantage of the memory of infrastructure, UEs and moving base stations.

The mobile network of the future will rely more and more on distributed approaches for radio resource management, content caching and processing. This will make networks more liquid, and the only certainty will be the level of uncertainty characterising them. As in Zygmunt Bauman’s observations about the move towards the liquid society, every node will eagerly behave to exploit resources in a sort of extreme individualism. Game theoretic approaches to the study of networks will become more and more relevant, to identify the conditions to achieve some equilibrium.

Bauman’s concern about the moral aspects of this evolution, do not apply to communication networks. However, similar questions raise: in such a liquid context, who wins, and, what do we loose?

Roberto Verdone