5G may have just come out and 6G may be still a distant glimmer in the future, but researchers are already forging ahead to the generation of wireless connectivity that’s expected to drop in the 2030s. For the second year in a row, telecommunications leaders and industry experts attended the annual 6G Summit in Oulu, Finland.
Due to current events, this year’s 2020 6G Summit went virtual. You can learn about it right here. Or, read on for a quick overview of what it is, why it matters, and what ideas are being discussed.
What is the 2020 6G Summit?
The 6G Wireless Summit is a conference hosted by the University of Oulu in Oulu, Finland to share the latest research and hottest topics around 6G.
Since 2018, the university has positioned itself as a leader in 6G research and development with its program known as Flagship. This vigorous research ecosystem encompasses 5G deployment and finalization of the standard, as well as 6G innovations.
The 6G Summit is a part of that ecosystem. The yearly event attracts major telecommunications thinkers and innovators from around the world, including Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, ZTE, and others.
Notable Keynotes and Ideas This Year
While most of the material for the 6G Summit stands behind password-protected pages, the public has access to two notable areas: the Keynote speakers and the first edition of the 6G Waves Magazine. From these, we can glean some of the notable ideas being discussed at the summit this year. They include:
Intelligent Connection of the Physical and Digital Worlds
Many of the keynotes focused on opportunities and challenges for hardware and software above 100Ghz on the Spectrum, where 6G is most likely to reside. While technology has steadily moved in a direction to support such high frequencies, experts note that we have a long way to go before we’re fully able to realize 6G.
However, one interesting idea that surfaced across several keynotes included the idea of intelligently connected physical and digital worlds. While some speakers identified this as features such as wireless cognition, improved location sensing, and macro-connectivity, others noted that 6G will bring a much more three-dimensional experience to connectivity.
If that sounds a little arcane, it’s because it is. To illustrate, Fang Min lays out a vision for 6G that involves three Internets beyond what we already have, delivering new types of traffic to our networks:
- Internet of AI. This will come to encompass all users, machines, or organisms that interact intelligently with the digital world.
- Internet of Sense. Visual, audio, haptic, and emotional interactions will come to play a larger role in our networks.
- Internet of Industry. Automated machines, platforms, and industrial processes will be a major source of network traffic with 6G.
From this, we can discern two things. First, 6G is expected to have a much more ubiquitous and overarching presence than our current wireless networks. Almost no aspect of our lives will be disconnected from it.
Second, such a buildout will require a massive amount of restructuring and innovation – though we already know that. However, this vision provides us a much deeper context of why 6G research and development have started so soon. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Key challenges and limitations have fallen into two categories:
- Power usage and transmission limitations. We currently literally can’t transmit the power that all this usage would require.
- Propagation challenges. Turns out that long-distance signal processing for 6G is really, really complicated.
Determining Target KPIs for 6G Development
Whereas the first annual 6G Summit largely focused on overall challenges and opportunities, taking a high-level approach to 6G, the second annual Summit began to reveal some of the gritty details needed to realize 6G in the coming decade.
In particular, we now have a list of target key performance indicators (KPIs) for 6G development that give us a sense of how our current wireless infrastructure needs to evolve. According to Dr. Alain Mourad, those KPIs include:
- Spectrum with leap jumps above 100Ghz
- Bandwidth expansion from 500Mhz to 10Ghz
- Peak data rate tops 200Gbps
- User data rate scaling to 3Gbps at minimum
- Connection density must double to two devices per square meter
- Reliability must increase nine-fold
- U-plane latency must reduce to a fraction of a millisecond
- The energy efficiency of devices and networks needs to approach 100 percent
- Positioning accuracy should be attained within centimeters
- Mobility of signals must reach 1,000 kilometers per hour
It’s worth noting that these KPIs are similar to those laid out in NTT DoCoMo’s white paper, but more specific.
Where are we now in relation to all of this? We haven’t reached any of this. However, a roadmap consultation survey by H2020 EMPOWER (which is still open if you want to share your thoughts), found that the public is overwhelmingly confident that we’ll reach some or all of these KPIs within the coming decade.
Is There a White Paper Coming?
Probably. The first annual 6G Summit did release a white paper later in the year highlighting the key ideas discussed. We haven’t seen a white paper released just yet. However, we expect it later this year and are keeping our eyes open.
The first edition of the 6G Wave Magazine is available to the public. You can check it out right here to get a sense of what the hottest topics are right now.
6G is Coming: Stay Informed About Developments
With the second annual 6G Summit well underway (albeit digitally), we’re excited to see what new insights and developments that leading innovators will announce at its conclusion. As it stands, we expect to see more details about the opportunities and challenges of 6G emerge that give us a deeper look into what the future holds.
In the meantime, we’re tracking the latest news and research that emerges as the development of 6G gains momentum. With 5G already making its imprint in the world, it’s time to start looking ahead to the future.
Got questions about 6G? We’ve got answers. Read our guide to 6G now.