What are the concrete steps towards 6G?

Research groups have already begun discussions on 6G use cases and necessary technologies

Although 5G is still very much a work-in-progress with a good deal of continued evolution ahead of it, a range of stakeholders are already discussing and testing components and systems that very well could be included in what will shape future 6G technologies.

Commenting on the concrete steps that the industry is already taking to make 6G possible by the end of the decade, Sarah LaSelva, director of 6G marketing at Keysight Technologies, said that the research for what will likely become part of the first 6G standards release has already begun. According to the executive, some of this research will be a continuation of work completed in 5G, some of it will improve upon 5G — building networks that have AI natively built in, and some of it will be in response to general technological advancements.

“Labs, organizations and universities around the world have already started this process. They are building early simulations and prototypes to test out their ideas.  We are starting to see testbeds as well as new and more sophisticated digital twins being built. Testbeds and digital twins are important at this phase because they are programmable and flexible. The development cycle for 6G is following previous generations and appears to be on track for its public debut by 2030, with early demonstrations around 2027 to 2028,” LaSelva said.

Ian Wong, director of RF and wireless architecture at Viavi, noted that research labs and the industry are already heavily involved in doing their fundamental research towards future 6G systems. “I see academic research is now really focused on looking at what can be done next, Wong said, adding that a number of 6G consortiums and research groups in North America, Europe and Asia are already working to think what concrete problems will be solved by future 6G technologies.”

Meanwhile, Andreas Roessler, technology manager at Rohde & Schwartz, noted that several industry organizations have been formed to advance 6G technologies around the globe, whose members include industry partners, research institutes and universities. The executive also explained that initiatives of this kind already exist in the United States, Europe, China, Korea and Japan.

“Another example is that local governments, such as Finland or Germany, actively fund research projects tackling 6G and its technology components. Such projects typically run for three years. Companies participating in those research projects use the results to prepare for and contribute to the 6G standardization process. That typically starts with a study phase that lasts between 12-24 months, which means that the actual 6G standardization will begin in early 2027,” he said.

In line with the previous views, Hiroaki Sato, of the 6G Infrastructure Group, Future Society and Technology Unit at Fujitsu, explained that research groups consisting of industry, government and academia members in different countries have been already established to start discussions on 6G use cases and necessary technologies. “As an output, they have published white papers and are promoting awareness around the 6G topic. We assume that the timing of standardization will be determined based on the needs of each industry, but research and development has already started in each technical field, and the development of semiconductors for use in radio and optical communications is also underway,” Sato said.

“To standardize the communications technologies, the International Telecommunication Union Radio communication Sector (ITU-R), an agency of the United Nations, first must define the 6G vision and the technical performance requirements. This is then followed by the work of organizations such as 3GPP to establish technical standards according to these requirements. The ITU-R’s 6G vision will provide a global direction and roadmap for the technology, service, spectrum and commercialization,” said Sunghyun Choi, head of advanced communications research center at Samsung Research. “We anticipate that the ITU-R 6G Vision Group will define the 6G vision, including target services and capabilities, by mid-2023. The specification development of 6G technology within 3GPP is expected to begin around 2025, aiming to deliver the first release of 6G technical standards by 2028.”

RCR Wireless News published an editorial report about future 6G technology called “What problems will the next generation of cellular solve and how?” in which key industry leaders talk about the future development of 6G technology. Click here to access the report.

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