We’ve come a long way from using networks for telephony services like calls and messages in 2G to experiencing internet speed in 3G, deploying private office networks in 4G, and now creating smart environments with automation and robots in 5G. Each generation of communication technology brings major improvements to the network, improving on the preceding generation’s use-cases while also bringing new ones. While 5G is still in its infancy, 6G will be built upon it. It is expected to accelerate the adoption of 5G use cases at scale, owing to cost-cutting and optimizations, particularly at the enterprise level. At the same time, it will open up new possibilities. Furthermore, 6G will connect the human, physical, and virtual worlds.
Take, for example, the term “metaverse.” It’s one of the 5G use cases that’s set to shake up both the traditional and digital worlds. The ‘Metaverse’ would not only evolve into a final model with 6G, but it would also likely merge with the physical world via artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is because, according to Nokia Bell Labs, the most striking feature of 6G will be its ability to sense the environment, people, and things. The network will become more cognitive as its sensing capabilities are integrated with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The successor to 5G cellular technology is the sixth-generation wireless communications system. 6G networks are expected to be able to utilise higher frequencies than 5G networks, allowing for faster data rates and a significantly larger overall capacity. It is almost certain that far lower latency levels will be required. Overall, 6G mobile technology is planned to provide communications with a one-microsecond or perhaps sub-microsecond latency, making communication almost instantaneous.
Timescales for 6G
5G began to roll out in 2019, and it is expected to be the primary mobile communications technology until at least 2030. Initial 6G installations could begin in the 2030s to 2035s, albeit this is only a guess. However, these timelines for 6G are similar to those for prior generations: 1G was available in the 1980s, 2G in the 1990s, 3G began deployment in 2003, 4G initial deployments began in 2008 and 2009, and 5G in 2019. Initial ideas must start coming together now in order for 6G technology to be available on time.
6G technology developments
A number of 6G technology research initiatives are already underway, examining what is achievable as well as what is required. The exact format for 6G will be determined by how 5G evolves and where its flaws manifest. There have been many various use cases proposed so far, and only time will tell what the uptake is and how 5G will be employed. It’s projected to be utilised more for the Internet of Things, or IoT, as well as autonomous car inter-vehicle communications. It remains to be seen how all of this will play out. If there are any shortcomings with 5G, these can be addressed in the 6G ideas. Furthermore, TeraHerz communications are projected to be a crucial component of 6G. Huge bandwidths will be attainable using these extremely high frequencies, despite the fact that the technology to do so is not yet available.
6G development projects
There are already a number of 6G technology projects that are underway at the moment, and some organisations are now starting early development.
- South Korea Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute: South Korea, as one might imagine, is significantly ahead of the curve, and this institute is working on Terahertz band technology for 6G. 6G is expected to be 100 times faster than 4G LTE and five times quicker than 5G networks.
- The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, MIIT, China: China is keen to take a lead in 6G, having invested heavily in technology. As a result, MIIT is investing directly in and overseeing the research and development process.
- The University of Oulu, Finland: This university has launched 6Genesis, a 6G research effort. The research will last at least eight years and will produce ideas that will be compatible with 6G technology by 2040.
- USA initiatives: The United States plans to offer up a 6G frequency spectrum for early research and development at frequencies between 95 GHz and 3 THz, though this will require approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for frequencies over 95 gigahertz GHz to 3 THz.
Technologies for 6G
6G mobile communications technology will build on that already established for 5G. Some of the existing new technologies will be further developed for 6G
- Millimetre-Wave technologies: Using frequencies that are considerably higher in the frequency spectrum allows for more spectrum to be used while also allowing for a much wider channel bandwidth. Millimetre-wave technology will be further improved, possibly stretching into the TeraHertz region of the spectrum, as large data speeds and bandwidths are necessary for 6G.
- Massive MIMO: Although MIMO is employed in a variety of applications ranging from LTE to Wi-Fi, the number of antennas is limited -. Because of the antenna sizes and spacings in terms of wavelength, putting tens of antennas on a single piece of equipment becomes a genuine option when using microwave frequencies.
- Dense networks Reducing the size of cells allows for a considerably more efficient overall usage of the spectrum. Techniques are needed to ensure that small cells deployed as femtocells in a macro network can function properly.
Many new technologies will also be introduced. Some candidates that are being talked about could include the following.
- Future PHY / MAC: The new physical layer and MAC presents many new interesting possibilities in a number of areas.
- Waveforms: The novel waveforms that could be employed for wireless communications are one significant area of interest. OFDM has seen widespread use in 4G and 5G mobile communications, as well as a variety of other high-data-rate wireless communication systems, but it does have significant limits in certain situations. GFDM (Generalized Frequency Division Multiplexing), FBMC (Filter Bank Multi-Carrier), and UFMC (Universal Filtered MultiCarrier) are examples of other waveforms. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and it’s feasible that adaptive methods will be used to use multiple waveforms for 6G mobile communications systems depending on the requirements. This gives 6G mobile communications a great deal more versatility.
- Multiple Access Schemes: Again a variety of new access schemes are being investigated for 6G technology
- Modulation: While PSK and QAM have excelled in terms of spectral efficiency, durability, and capacity, the high peak to average power ratio is a key disadvantage. In some cases, modulation methods such as APSK may be advantageous. Because APSK has a lower peak to average power ratio or PAPR, it is more suited to mobile communications systems, as the final amplifier can function more effectively with a lower PAPR.
- Duplex methods: For the future 6G wireless communications technology, there are numerous possible forms of the duplex that could be used. Systems employ either frequency division duplex (FDD) or time division duplex (TDD) at the moment. Flexible duplex, in which the time or frequencies provided are varied depending on the load in either direction or a novel system known as division free duplex or single-channel full-duplex are among the potential possibilities for 6G. This 6G method would allow transmission and reception on the same channel at the same time.
No Guarantees, No Deal
Working with future technologies, such as driverless automobiles or drones, could be difficult without a clear understanding of what the network can supply and when. Strict service-level agreements are urgently needed (SLAs). Guaranteed SLAs are required in the world we are entering. To be able to have an autonomous car that does not require a driver, you must have a guarantee of ultra-low latency and responsibility. The majority of today’s networks are based on best efforts rather than guarantees or SLAs. And it’s on that promise that we’ll be able to go to 6G.
Machine learning and AI
The amount of data produced by nearly nine billion people using more than 500 billion linked equipment will be enormous. As a result, experts agree that machine learning and artificial intelligence will be critical in the 6G era. Experiments in a variety of disciplines are already underway, and it’s becoming clearer how AI and machine learning may aid in the building of 6G, though it’s still early days. All of this generates data by monitoring how users use the network at various times, locations, and intensities. Rather than flying blind, network operators are eager to include AI to help them optimise their networks.
Opening and disaggregating
Bringing cloud processing closer to the edge, or to the end-user, is one of the most important components of future networks. Instead of having to travel a great distance before being processed, the data would be processed locally, reducing latency. This disaggregation strategy, which was implemented in 5G, will be crucial in 6G and will lead us to a significant milestone. This will have a huge impact on how technology advances and changes over time; it will happen at a much faster rate. This will have a significant impact on the evolution of 6G.