6G technology is currently in its research and development phase, with many aspects still to be defined, implemented, and legalized. Researchers are exploring the potential of terahertz waves, which could help telecom operators greatly reduce latency and increase data speeds up to 1 terabyte per second. 6G networks will be able to use higher frequencies than 5G networks, resulting in significantly higher capacity and lower latency.
One of the main goals of 6G is to provide internet that supports communications with a latency of just one microsecond, which is 1,000 times faster than one-millisecond throughput. 6G technology is expected to bring significant advancements in presence technology, imaging, and location awareness. Through collaboration with artificial intelligence, the 6G computational infrastructure will be able to determine the best location for computing to occur, including decisions about data storage, processing, and sharing.
The potential of 6G technology is enormous and could transform the way human and digital worlds interact. It is expected to support virtual reality, augmented reality, metaverse, and AI by 2030. Ultimately, 6G will provide omnipresent wireless intelligence. The research journey for 6G is already underway, and commercial availability is expected early in the 2030s.
What are the benefits or advantages of 6G over 5G?
The higher frequencies of 6G will allow for much faster sampling rates than 5G. They will also have significantly higher throughput and data rates. The use of sub-mm waves (wavelengths less than one millimetre) and frequency selectivity to evaluate the relative electromagnetic absorption rates is expected to advance wireless sensing technology development. Mobile edge computing will be built into all 6G networks, but existing 5G networks will need to be upgraded. By the time 6G networks are deployed, core and edge computing will be more integrated as part of a computation infrastructure framework and combined communications. As 6G technology becomes operational, it could provide numerous benefits. These advantages include improved access to AI capabilities as well as support for advanced mobile devices and systems.
- 6G is intended to support a greater number of mobile connections than the 5G capacity, which is approximately 10 x 105 per Km2.
- 6G will transform the healthcare industry by eliminating time and space barriers through guaranteed healthcare workflow optimizations and remote surgery.
- Cellular networks have been facing efficiency issues for indoor coverage as the majority of mobile traffic is generated indoors. 6G overcomes these obstacles using femtocells or Distributed Antenna Systems (DASs).
- THz frequencies will be used in 6G, which has several advantages. THz waves absorb moisture in the air easily, making them useful for high-speed, short-range wireless communications.
- THz provides a narrow beam and better directivity, resulting in secure communication due to its strong anti-interference capability. THz waves can be utilized for space communication to enable lossless transmission between satellites.
- 6G wireless employs visible lights, which take advantage of LED such as illumination and high-speed data communication
- Visible Light Communication (VLCs) does not emit electromagnetic radiation. As a result, it is not susceptible to external EM interference. VLC also contributes to network security.
- Additional components, such as the Physical (PHY) layer and Medium Access Control (MAC) layer, will be virtualized in 6G. PHY/MAC implementations currently necessitate dedicated hardware implementations.
It is premature to make definitive conclusions about the advantages, disadvantages, or challenges of 6G technology since it is still in the development phase. We will need to wait until a 6G system is established for testing and trial purposes. Some of the expected challenges we come across are listed below:
- With a new network architecture 6G employs a cell-free architecture and multi-connectivity. As a result, perfect scheduling is required for seamless mobility and integration of various types of frequencies (THz, VLC, mm-wave, sub-6GHz).
- Ultra-large-scale antennas are a significant challenge in THz, where high bandwidth and massive quantitative high resolution are required. Processing power is a significant challenge in designing low-power, low-cost 6G devices.
- Because 6G wireless technology uses visible light frequencies for some of its communications, the drawbacks of VLC can also be considered drawbacks of 6G wireless technology. Visible light has a wavelength range of 390-700 nm.
- A 6G system is required to manage many terminals and networking equipment in a more energy-efficient manner. This necessitates the design of the network and terminal equipment circuitry as well as the communication protocol stack. To meet this demand, energy harvesting strategies are being implemented.
Competition has started between telecom companies to get their share in 6G, and companies have already begun publishing whitepapers on the technology.
Related reading: 5G Monetization – a future reality check
6G networks are expected to provide more diverse capabilities than their predecessors and to support applications other than current mobile applications, such as AR and VR, AI, and IoT. It is also expected that mobile network operators will use flexible, decentralized 6G models, including local spectrum licensing, spectrum sharing, and infrastructure sharing. This will be handled by intelligent automated management, powered by mobile edge computing, short-packet communication, and blockchain technologies.
During the rise of 5G, autonomous vehicles, smart factories, drones, and AI have gained a lot of traction. 6G will push those applications even further, even requiring AI to keep everything coordinated and running smoothly. Collaborative AI may be used by self-driving cars to communicate with others for navigation, pedestrian/object avoidance, and traffic updates. AI and edge computing could also enable devices like traffic and streetlights to act as networking antennas in their surroundings, allowing vehicles and people to maintain Wi-Fi connections. VR and AR may become more immersive in the future. Consider connected implants or wireless human/computer interfaces to create cellular surfaces and objects that feel tangible. It can be used in various applications such as multisensory XR applications, connected robotics and autonomous systems (CRAS), wireless brain-computer interactions, blockchain, and many more.
How Will 6G affect the environment and sustainability?
The emerging vision for 6G is to enable near-instant and ubiquitous connectivity with new ways of computation, leveraging data, and communication for greater social integration. Holographic communications, a tactile Internet, intelligent network operations, network and computing convergence, and many other exciting possibilities could be enabled by the technology. 6G will build on and go far beyond the capabilities of 5G, ushering in a new wireless era that drives business innovation and accelerates digitalization across critical industries.
- IoT will reduce energy consumption by controlling appliances as well as contribute to optimization for connected vehicles, automated manufacturing, drone agriculture, and more.
- Smart transportation would be enabled by 6G, in which connected electric vehicles, cameras, and roads communicate to optimize traffic flow to reduce fuel consumption.
- Connected machines and robots will manage supply chains more efficiently, reducing energy, water, and carbon emissions.
- To reduce carbon emissions, smart agriculture can use sensors to control water, monitor livestock, and provide accurate pesticide use.
- 6G could help with the transition to renewable energy, and smart grids could improve energy distribution.
- The 6G network will be more efficient and use less power than the 5G network. 6G can power future applications and aid in energy efficiency through digitization.
What is Hexa-X-II?
Hexa-X-II is the second phase of the European 6G flagship initiative of the European Commission (EC). The new phase will see the Hexa-X partner list grow to 44 organizations tasked with developing the pre-standardized platform. The EC has awarded funding to the Hexa-X-II project as part of the first call of the Smart Network and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS-JU). Both Hexa-X and Hexa-X-II aim to establish Europe as a 6G leader.
Hexa-X-II encompasses the entire value chain for future connectivity solutions. Its members include network vendors and communication service providers, as well as verticals and technology providers and the most prestigious European communications research institutes. Following its leadership of the first Hexa-X project, Nokia will be the project leader for Hexa-X-II. Ericsson is appointed technical manager for Hexa-X-II. Orange, TIM SpA, TU Dresden, IMEC, the University of Oulu, and Atos will assist in the coordination of various work packages, including radio evolution and innovation, future devices and flexible infrastructure, smart network management and values, and requirements and ecosystem.
Future trends towards the 6G era
In the coming years, it will be crucial to rely more on cloud technologies. Cloud Radio Access Network (RANs) with an open layered architecture and cloud-native standalone core technologies that many network operators have already started to integrate into their networks. Future advancement in this field is dependent on the availability of high-performance digital infrastructure components that guarantee an environment that is open, interoperable, trustworthy, secure, effectively automated, and safe. In addition to traditional communication services, the network will expose new features such as multisensory digital representations, context awareness, and observability to assist users with insights and reasoning. The distributed functions of the communication network, such as real-time computing and ubiquitous connectivity embedded with intelligence, will collaborate with distributed endpoints and cloud infrastructures to form the digital infrastructure’s future capabilities.
- Digital representation of the networked reality
- Adaptable limitless connectivity
- Integrity of trustworthy systems
- Federated cognitive networks
- A unified network compute fabric
Key use cases of 6G in the future
- The digitalized and programmable physical world: Every physical object, including intelligent machines, humans, and their surroundings, will have a digital representation in the future, and the physical world will be fully programmable and automated. Individually and collectively, the digital representations will manage and process data for prediction and planning in relation to the physical world. Through orchestration, actuation, and reprogramming, the generated insights will have an impact on the physical world.
- Internet of senses: This IoT allows the mixing of multisensory digital experiences with surroundings and interacts with devices, people, and robots as if they were nearby. Visual, haptic, audio, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste) sensing and actuation technologies are critical components for realizing digital sensory experiences similar to those experienced in the physical world.
- Connected intelligent machines: Intelligent machines that are connected are physical objects and software agents that operate and perform tasks in both the physical and digital realms. In collaborative and aggregate structures, they are linked to applications, users, and each other. As collaborative capabilities advance, the demand for communication capacity and functional capabilities grows exponentially, resulting in new digital and diverse interaction patterns. Furthermore, connected intelligent machines will become increasingly reliant on awareness of both their physical and digital contexts.
6G networks will be extremely complex, necessitating increased deployment time, cost, and management effort. Mobile network operators, on the other hand, expect these networks to be intelligent, self-organizing, and cost-effective in order to reduce operating costs (OPEX). ML and AI are providing pragmatic solutions to many of these challenges, with the potential to completely change the future of wireless network technologies.
Based on insights by Husen Limdiwala – Manager, Market Research team, Netscribes