Building a hyper-connected future with 6G networks

The advent of 6G communication systems brings forth new possibilities and advancements compared to previous generations. With hyper-connectivity and machine-to-machine communication at its core, 6G aims to bridge the gap between humanity and the world of machines.

In this Help Net Security interview, Shamik Mishra, Capgemini‘s CTO of Connectivity, delves into the emerging themes and technologies shaping 6G, its performance metrics compared to 5G, the role of advanced AI algorithms, the impact of higher frequencies, and the geopolitical race for 6G leadership.

6G networks

How does the introduction of 6G differ from previous generations of communication systems? What are the emerging themes and technologies shaping 6G, and how are they building upon the strengths of 5G?

2G/3G introduced mobile internet that enabled humans to be connected on the move. 4G provided reliable internet connection on smartphones that enabled new social interaction which gave rise to new applications and it revolutionized the way people interacted with each other, shopped, booked taxis or played games. 6G is expected to provide hyper-connectivity that will lessen the divide between humanity and the inanimate world of machines and computers.

The 6G use cases mostly would be about machine-to-machine communication like massive digital twins for industrial operations at real time, autonomous swarms and transport, rapid disaster response and public safety etc. For human consumptions, 6G expected to transform multi-sensory XR, eHealth, telepresence etc.

In terms of performance, how does 6G compare to 5G? Can you provide key metrics such as peak data rate, maximum bandwidth, latency, reliability, and mobility supported for both 5G and 6G?

Spectral efficiency, bandwidth, and network densification are the three main ingredients needed to achieve higher data rates. 6G is likely to provide substantially, higher capacity, and much lower latency.

Terahertz (THz) bands from 100GHz to 10THz are currently being considered. This will allow the delivery of a peak data rate of 1,000 gigabits/second with over-the-air latency lower than 100 microseconds. The current intent is to make 6G, 50x faster than 5G, 10,000 times more reliable, and able to support multitudes of devices per square kilometer while offering wider coverage.

How do advanced AI algorithms play a role in solving wireless communication challenges presented by 6G? Can you provide examples of specific challenges that these algorithms can address?

6G is expected to be one of the first AI native networks where AI is embedded in the networking equipment. This will enable the network to learn and manage itself and be more autonomous and reduce operational overhead. AI algorithms will enable networks to reconfigure itself such that the quality of experience remains optimal. AI algorithms will drive energy optimization and enable sustainable networks. This means that the entire data collection to algorithm development needs to be more distributed and learning will be federated.

Hardware and Software will evolve as AI models have to run on compute constrained environment. The networks will be heterogenous i.e. Terrestrial, Non-Terrestrial (Satellite), UAV based drones, wired broadband etc. will need a common “data” model for seamless usage of AI in networks.

Regulatory bodies are considering allowing 6G networks to use higher frequencies than 5G networks. How will this impact the capacity, data rates, and latency of 6G? Can you explain how terahertz (THz) bands are being considered for 6G?

The 6G era will necessitate a 20X increase in network capacity. 6G will meet this challenge through new spectrum in range (7 to 24 GHz) including sub-THz range (larger than 100 GHz) and ultra-massive MIMO. With near-THz frequencies, the potential for very accurate sensing based on radar-like technology arises.

6G networks will be able to sense their surroundings, allowing us to generate highly realized digital versions of the physical world. This digital awareness would turn the network into our sixth sense. It will particularly improve performance in indoor communications scenarios by acquiring and sending better information about the indoor space, range, barriers, and positioning to the network.

How would you describe the geopolitical race for leadership in 6G technology? Can you provide examples of countries or alliances actively investing in 6G research and development?

6G research is now a mainstream research topic both for academia and industries. In North America, Next-G alliance have started early development in 6G. In Europe, multiple programs including HexaX program. Universities like King’s college, University of Oulu and others are actively involved.

Alliances like O-RAN Alliance have introduced nGRG workgroup to investigate 6G. In India TSDSI are actively working on 6G vision whereas significant research progress has been seen in China, Japan and Korea. Several network equipment providers, operators and system integrators like Capgemini have started investing in 6G research.

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