5G intelligent radio and transport Edge network Cross-Optimization

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About the project

5G networks come with a high cost of ownership. A solution would be to add more network sharing. 5GECO is looking to enable such sharing for two specific use cases: setting up intelligent neutral host sharing and shared transport networks. In addition, two proofs of concept will serve to validate the 5GECO innovation.

A case for sharing 5G infrastructure

The costs of deploying 5G networks are substantial. This is also because 5G requires more radio sites than 4G, even more so in hyper-dense urban environments. In addition, the higher throughput requires more performant and more extensive optical transport networks. Adding to the cost, 5G will also introduce new types of private networks for industrial and other business verticals. The solution: network sharing.

In the mobile market, sharing the passive infrastructure (e.g., tower sharing) has become commonplace. However, 5G has triggered a broader interest in sharing, e.g. network sharing for markets and operators that have not yet been involved. In addition, governments and regulators need reassurance that sharing agreements are fair and equitable.

Two cases that will reduce costs

5GECO is looking for solutions for two specific use cases in which sharing can significantly reduce the cost:

  • “Intelligent Neutral Host” sharing of Open Radio Access Networks (O-RAN), especially for new private 5G architectures and applications.
  • “Shared PON Transport” for cross-optimized radio access and transport networks using PON (Passive Optical Networks).

Research goals and outcome

5GECO will develop an Intelligent Neutral Host platform (5G SNPN) that combines an O-RAN, edge compute, and network sharing architecture. It will support the use of AI machine learning for the RAN intelligent controller.

In addition, 5GECO will also integrate the RAN and edge SDN control-planes and develop intelligent algorithms for the cross-optimization of radio access and transport networks.

Within the project, we will showcase this platform in two proofs of concept:

  • A real-life deployment to show how a mobile network operator like Citymesh, acting as a neutral host operator, can manage its small cells while leasing out slices of network capacity to other 5G service providers.
  • A coordinated optimization of radio access & transport networks. This should optimally distribute the traffic flows and avoid congestion in the transport networks. In addition, it should prove how a transport network can prevent unfair rate-limiting for specific types of traffic.

“5GECO will reduce the cost of 5G for ultra-dense urban and private industrial deployments. It will enable the intelligent sharing of resources among service providers. And it will make radio access networks and transport networks aware of each other, so they can harmonize their decision-making.”


5GECO plans to design an intelligent, flexible and automated management of neutral host sharing on Open Radio Access Network (RAN) with shared transport networks.

5GECO is an imec.icon research project funded by imec and Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen (VLAIO).

The project started on 01.03.2022 and is set to run until 29.02.2024.

Project information


  • Accelleran
  • Citymesh
  • Nokia Bell


  • imec – IDLab – UGent
  • imec – IDLab MOSAIC - UAntwerpen


  • Project lead:  Jens Buysse
  • Research lead: Miguel Hernando Camelo Botero
  • Proposal manager: Miguel Hernando Camelo Botero
  • Innovation manager: Steven Van Assche