Trends in intelligent communication systems: Review of standards, major research projects, and identification of research gaps

Konstantinos Koufos, Karim Haloui, Mehrdad Dianati, Matthew Higgins, Jaafar Elmirghani, Muhammad Imran, Rahim Tafazolli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


The increasing complexity of communication systems, following the advent of heteroge-neous technologies, services and use cases with diverse technical requirements, provide a strong case for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven machine learning (ML) techniques in studying, designing and operating emerging communication networks. At the same time, the access and ability to process large volumes of network data can unleash the full potential of a network orchestrated by AI/ML to optimise the usage of available resources while keeping both CapEx and OpEx low. Driven by these new opportunities, the ongoing standardisation activities indicate strong interest to reap the benefits of incorporating AI and ML techniques in communication networks. For instance, 3GPP has introduced the network data analytics function (NWDAF) at the 5G core network for the control and management of network slices, and for providing predictive analytics, or statistics, about past events to other network functions, leveraging AI/ML and big data analytics. Likewise, at the radio access network (RAN), the O-RAN Alliance has already defined an architecture to infuse intelligence into the RAN, where closed-loop control models are classified based on their operational timescale, i.e., real-time, near real-time, and non-real-time RAN intelligent control (RIC). Different from the existing related surveys, in this review article, we group the major research studies in the design of model-aided ML-based transceivers following the breakdown suggested by the O-RAN Alliance. At the core and the edge networks, we review the ongoing standardisation activities in intelligent networking and the existing works cognisant of the architecture recommended by 3GPP and ETSI. We also review the existing trends in ML algorithms running on low-power micro-controller units, known as TinyML. We conclude with a summary of recent and currently funded projects on intelligent communications and networking. This review reveals that the telecommunication industry and standardisation bodies have been mostly focused on non-real-time RIC, data analytics at the core and the edge, AI-based network slicing, and vendor inter-operability issues, whereas most recent academic research has focused on real-time RIC. In addition, intelligent radio resource management and aspects of intelligent control of the propagation channel using reflecting intelligent surfaces have captured the attention of ongoing research projects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number60
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Sensor and Actuator Networks
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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