Evolving Mobile Communications from 5G to 6G (Part 2)

Even while we roll out 5G networks, plans to move to the 6G vision are underway. Expected to be a reality by 2030, 6G will power the “Internet of Senses”.

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Characteristics and Innovation Directions for 5.5G Networks

Even while we roll out 5G networks, plans to move to the 6G vision are underway. Expected to be a reality by 2030, globally 6G will be powering the “Internet of Senses”. A fusion of the physical, digital, and non-physical worlds; in effect moving user engagement away from mobile phones and into a multi-sensory experience.

Bharat B Bhatia

By Bharat Bhatia

Technologies for 6G


6G mobile communications technology will build on many enabling wireless technologies that are already established for 5G. Some of these existing new technologies that will be further developed for 6G are

  • Millimetre-Wave technologies: Using frequencies much higher in the frequency spectrum opens up more spectrum and also provides the possibility of having much wide channel bandwidth. With huge data speeds and bandwidths required for 6G, the millimeter-wave technologies will be further developed, possibly extending into the Terahertz region of the spectrum.
  • Massive MIMO: Although MIMO is being used in many applications from LTE to Wi-Fi, etc, the number of antennas is fairly limited -. Using microwave frequencies opens up the possibility of using many tens of antennas on a single piece of equipment becomes a real possibility because of the antenna sizes and spacings in terms of wavelength.
  • Dense networks Reducing the size of cells provides a much more overall effective use of the available spectrum. Techniques to ensure that small cells in the macro-network and deployed as femtocells can operate satisfactorily are required.

In addition, 6G will see many new technologies and applications innovations. Some candidates new technologies and applications, that are being talked about could include the following:

  • Terahertz communications: Using these exceedingly high frequencies, huge bandwidths will become available, although the technology is not available to make this happen.
  • Synaesthesia Interconnection: Synaesthesia Interconnection is the joint communication of the multiple senses (haptic, taste, smell, etc.). The absolute latency to support real-time feedback is very challenging and the relative synchronization among the multiple senses would also need to be maintained to make it real.
  • Immersive Cloud XR: X-Reality, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) is expected to provide higher resolution using immersive cloud
  • Holographic Communications: Holographic communication provides a real-time three-dimensional representation of people, things, and their surroundings in a remote scenario. It requires at least an order of magnitude high transmission rate and powerful 3D display capability.
  • Digital Twin: Digital twin is a digital replica of entities in the physical world, which demands real-time and high accuracy sensing to ensure accuracy, low latency, and high data transmission rate to guarantee the real-time interaction between virtual and physical worlds.
  • Intelligent Interaction: Intelligent agents with perception and thinking capability will produce active intelligent interactive behaviors and realize emotional judgment and feedback intelligence at the same time, which needs extremely high reliability.
  • Multidimensional sensing: Sensing based on measuring and analyzing wireless signals will open opportunities for high-precision positioning, ultra-high resolution imaging, mapping and environment reconstruction, gesture and motion recognition, which will demand high sensing resolution, accuracy, and detection rate.
  • 6G Global developments: There are already a number of 6G technology projects that are underway at the moment, and some organizations are now starting early development.
  • South Korea Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute: As might be expected, South Korea is well ahead and this institute is conducting research on Terahertz band technology for 6G. They are hoping to make 6G 100 times faster than 4G LTE and 5 times faster than 5G networks.
  • The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, MIIT, China: With China investing large amounts into technology, they are keen to gain a lead in 6G. Accordingly, MIIT is directly investing and monitoring the research and development process of 6G in China.
  • The University of Oulu, Finland: This university has started a 6G research initiative known as 6Genesis. The project is expected to run for at least eight years and it will develop ideas that will be suitable for 6G technology almost to 2040.
  • US Next G Alliance: United States was lagging behind the most advanced countries in the 5G research and development. In October 2020, the US industry association, Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) launched the Next G Alliance, an initiative aiming to lay out the foundations of 6G in North America. This group currently has 43 founders and contributing members, including some tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and most of the major carriers in the U.S. and Canada. Unlike other programs that foster 6G, the Next G Alliance was born from a market initiative, not from governments’ efforts to set up a policy or vision. Besides funding and research, the Next G Alliance will look at manufacturing developments and standards from a high-level strategic perspective. The idea is to engage the international community in discussions about standards and how government and industry can work together.
  • The European 6G flagship program Hexa-X: Funded by €11.9 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, Hexa-X is a two-and-a-half-year program coordinated by Nokia that comprises 25 members, like Ericsson, Intel, and Orange. The consortium 6G vision comprises a network capable of connecting the physical, digital, and human (senses, bodies, intelligence, and values) worlds.
  • EU Projects RISE-6G and NEW-6G: In February 2021, two new 6G European initiatives were announced. RISE-6G, a European Union-funded consortium of 13 members across the continent launched under 5G-PPP, focused on Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces; and the NEW-6G, which stands for Nano Electronic and Wireless for 6G. RISE-6G will receive €6.49 million from the E.U. under the Horizon 2020 program and dive into a specific aspect of the next generation of mobile connectivity.

Bhatia is President, ITU-APT Foundation of India (IAFI) and Vice-Chairman, Asia Pacific, World Wireless Research Forum(WWRF)

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