Pondering over 6G
The 5G rollout is yet to start and the curious human mind has stepped out in search of what 6G technology will be like. In fact, some of the glimpses of 6G were rendered in a study by Joseph Mitola who introduced the concept of cognitive radio. It is believed that the concept of cognitive radio will reach full potential in the 6G era. This Mitola radio will create self-regulating societies of mobile radios for fair and efficient co-existence. It will facilitate seamless mobile convergence across all networks, including LTE and Wi-Fi.
What can we expect?
Basically, 6G will enable the type of seamless communication that 5G will not be able to deliver. There will be a type of fluidity in communication that 5G, despite the claims of omnipresent connectivity, will not provide.
Research has already started on 6G, with the first one conducted by the University of Oulu1 in Finland. Professor Matti Latva-aho, the director of the 6G flagship research programme at the university has explained “The way in which data is collected, processed, transmitted and consumed within the wireless network should drive 6G development.” This, it is believed, will be made possible with AI — from network orchestration and management to coding and signal processing. AI will be aided by radar technology embedded in individual devices to provide contextual information.
The low-latency level of 5G will drop further for 6G to a latency of only a millisecond. It is expected that 6G will offer speed of up to 1TB per second. You see how seamless this communication will be? Come to think of it, devices will perhaps communicate as smoothly as humans.
What experts say?
A paper in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers magazine2 has mentioned some of the possibilities with 6G. It is expected to facilitate haptic communication and thus, help unlock the true potential of VAR. It will also facilitate holographic communication, which will be possible in only a limited form during the 5G era. For smart cities, 6G will make the system more integrated and liberate the elements to make them smart in the real sense of the term. The paper further elaborates that 6G will help V2X communication to reach its full potential. It also speaks of the future revolution after Industry 4.0 — the Industry X.0, which will be supported by 6G network technology.
The paper has also mentioned some key enablers of 6G, like pervasive AI (as already discussed), UAV wireless networks (like the one Google is working on), a metamaterials-based programmable radio environment and Quantum communications.
The University of Oulu’s whitepaper has outlined some of the implications of 6G implementation. Firstly, the shift to higher frequencies and smaller radio ranges will boost indoor network sharing. Researchers have also speculated the possibility of pervasive extended reality (XR) experiences. The 6G technology will also require new radio hardware. Something that goes without saying is the need for enhanced security. In fact the IEEE paper expects blockchain to play a critical role in ensuring security.
All said and done, the research is still in its initial stages. Chinese and South Korean companies have just ventured into 6G research. The Chinese government has set up a 6G research and development group for the purpose. Huawei has started working on 6G research. Meanwhile, Samsung has started working on 6G technology products.
Even so, each standard takes about a decade to develop and devices to roll out. For 6G, the technology rollout is expected around 2030.
Until then, 5G deployment will continue to be the focus for network operators and telecommunication equipment firms.