Experts say the sixth generation of wireless technology (6G) won’t appear anytime soon, but industry leaders and researchers are already stepping up efforts to accelerate its development.
AI will be “at the heart” of 6G, according to Merouane Debbah, Principal Researcher in Artificial Intelligence and Telecommunications Systems at the Technological Innovation Institute (TII) in Abu Dhabi National During the inaugural Abu Dhabi 6G Summit on Thursday.
This will lead to new ways of communicating, including through holographic means and 3D overlays, he said.
“It’s been a long process. Currently, we have people in research centers developing technologies that meet key performance indicators [KPIs] Or 6G,” Mr Deba said.
“We want to build an infrastructure that connects intelligence.”
What is 6G?
This is the next generation of wireless communications that promises greater speed and efficiency than the current iteration of 5G.
When will 6G be available?
If history is any guide, a new generation of wireless technology emerges every decade—meaning 6G will be available in the early 2030s. This is a widely shared industry expectation.
The United States has historically launched new iterations of wireless technology, with the third generation in 2002, the fourth in 2010, and 5G in 2018. The second and first generations existed in the 1980s and early 1990s, respectively, before the so-called “zero G”.
What is the time frame for 6G launch?
Mr Deba said research on 6G technology began in 2020, marking the start of a long and intensive process.
By 2024, a standardization process will begin, which will be initiated with trials to ensure the technology works “in the right configuration” – a process expected to continue until 2026.
Once tested, researchers will select technologies that respond to established key performance indicators and then move on to the next phase, which includes determining the frequency of use by around 2027.
This period will last until 2028 or 2029, and then hopefully in 2030, 6G networks will be built.
What is the biggest challenge of 6G?
Aside from the tedious development and standardization process, the most important aspect is getting all the organizations involved and then agreeing on the standard to move quickly to the deadline.
“As long as there are different stakeholders, like manufacturers and phone makers, they need to know how to talk to each other. You need to make sure everyone agrees,” Mr Deba said.
Energy consumption is also a challenge. The industry is looking for more ways to make 6G technology more sustainable in line with the goals of the Cop Climate Summit.
There’s also the concern of “connecting the unconnected,” which requires bringing network coverage to most, if not all, parts of the world – especially in “dead spots” like deserts – to ensure that communication is not involved.
How much faster is 6G than 5G?
The current iteration of 5G is already fast. However, 6G allows movies with 8K video resolution to be downloaded 500 times faster than what 5G offers.
In addition, 6G is expected to increase the capabilities of today’s 5G networks by a factor of 100, Mr. Debbah said.
He said the delay between sending and receiving information would be reduced by 10 to 0.1 milliseconds, while the energy efficiency of the network would drop by a factor of 100.
“It’s going to be a lot more connected than it is now – about 10 million connected objects per square kilometer,” Mr Deba said.
What are the enabling technologies for 6G?
As with every new standard, technology is either improved or introduced.
Research by Abu Dhabi-based TII shows that the need for faster speeds will be met with the help of 6G, the Internet of Things in space, ubiquitous artificial intelligence, network automation and the terahertz communication band, which is expected to be a key driver.
Pervasive artificial intelligence is the process of machine learning from experience.
For now, the most interesting but unexpected driver is the metaverse that emerged last year.
This is mainly because it is heavily promoted by Meta Platforms, the parent company of social media platform Facebook.
“The big picture is really a huge world,” said Ian Akyildiz, a member of the TII advisory board, noting the huge business opportunity that Metaverse presents — worth $394 billion by 2025.
A July report by PricewaterhouseCoopers said Metaverse offers a huge economic opportunity worth between $8 trillion and $13 trillion.
“From every angle — software, hardware, more applications and platforms — this is an incredible opportunity, and there will probably be more,” Mr. Akyildiz said.
Is it too early to talk about 7G?
This is. However, the TII study offers some clues as to what we can expect from technologies that may emerge in 2040.
Key enabling technology applications for 7G include quantum communications, which uses quantum physics and cryptography—or using code—to protect data, and nano-IoT/bio-nano-IoT, which senses and sends biological signals from the environment to the data center for processing on the Internet.
All of this sounds very futuristic, but at the current pace of technology, it wouldn’t be surprising if we made it happen sooner.
Updated: 11/4/2022 4:30AM