Concept & Methodology



MARSAL aims to provide an evolved architecture towards Beyond 5G (B5G), offering unprecedented degrees of flexibility and closed-loop autonomy at all tiers of the infrastructure, and significantly improved Spectral Efficiency via Cell-Free Networking. The overall concept of the MARSAL project is structured over three main pillars that in turn highlight the core activities of the project:

The network design pillar

offers a combination of innovative cell-free and Hybrid Multiple Input Multiple Output technologies for the Radio Access Network (RAN) and Fronthaul domains, fully aligned with recent initiatives towards an Open RAN (O-RAN);

The Elastic Edge Infrastructure pillar

will support a fully Elastic Edge Cloud and dynamic slicing support for the wireless and optical domains, offering zero perceived latency to Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) applications.

The Network security pillar

will focus on the security and privacy implications of multi-tenant infrastructures, offering a holistic framework for end users and tenants.

The overall architecture and the structure of the envisioned Beyond 5G (B5G) MARSAL is depicted in the generic schematic above, and includes all the main infrastructure elements that are deployed within MARSAL project. MARSAL adopts an evolved 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Next Generation RAN (NG-RAN) which is extended with emerging Cell-Free technologies for network densification. Moreover, MARSAL contributes with innovations at the optical transport domain and significantly evolves the MEC system towards fully elastic Edge Computing. MARSAL will deploy a distributed Edge infrastructure with Data Centres (DCs) structured in 2 tiers, featuring Regional Edge and Radio Edge nodes. Radio Edge DCs will host the Network Functions of the (virtualized) RAN, which fully aligned with the O-RAN specifications.

At the network design level, the emphasis is on innovations at the RAN and Fronthaul domains, that will unlock the potential of cell-free networking in future beyond-5G networks.

At the network service and management level, the design philosophy of MARSAL is to offer a joint optimization framework for the efficient, Self-Driven orchestration and management of communication, storage and computational resources in an integrated way.

At the network security level, MARSAL will introduce mechanisms that guarantee privacy and security in multi-tenancy environments, targeting both end users and tenants.


MARSAL’s goal is to design and evaluate a Machine Learning (ML)-driven converged optical-wireless infrastructure, by developing innovations in the domains of network infrastructure, network management, and network security domains. To achieve this ambition, MARSAL’s methodology will progress along the following phases:

PHASE 0: Data Acquisition and Generation. Aiming to provide all the required data for the effective training of the advanced MARSAL ML-based algorithms.

PHASE I: Definition of the MARSAL concept and KPIs, and requirement analysis. For the definition and analysis of the Proof of Concept (PoCs) and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) required for the complete evaluation of the project outcomes. During this phase the project will design the network architecture based on the PoC scenarios, identifying the macro-level network specifications and, consequently, the subsystem characteristics required in each case.

PHASE II: Innovation design. Focusing on the design of the innovations in the project’s context; for the network design domain: the distributed cell-free massive-Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) networks, cell-free virtual RAN (vRAN) for B5G network, for the network management domain: the hierarchical Software-Defined-Networking (SDN) control plane, and the virtual elastic infrastructure, and for the network security domain: the policy-driven security, privacy and trust in multi-tenant infrastructures.

PHASE III: Innovation testing and evaluation. To evaluate the innovations developed in PHASE II and to ensure their effectiveness.

PHASE IV: Integration and Proof-of-Concept (PoC). All network components (i.e., physical, virtual and logical) will be integrated to enable the execution of PoC experiments highlighting how the novel MARSAL solutions effectively address the project’s objectives.