Q&A: The promise of 6G

June 27th, 2022 | by Techgoondu
Q&A: The promise of 6G

Brought to you by Keysight Technologies

ILLUSTRATION: Keysight handout

The next generation of cellular technology will make huge improvements in bandwidth utilisation, data delivery, and application enablement. It is expected 6G will offer download speeds approaching one terabit per second, one micro-second latency, and unlimited bandwidth.

6G will enable creative ways for people to interact with their surroundings, including instantaneous communication, connected robotics, autonomous systems, and wireless artificial intelligent interactions. 

Keysight’s 6G program manager, Roger Nichols, answers questions about the technology advances needed, that will enable the vision of 6G.

Q: What will 6G do for us?

A: 6G will go a step beyond 5G in integrating communications with computing—so that network as a service (NaaS) and compute as a service (CaasS) become seamless.

This requires the use of advanced communications to allow computation to be distributed between cloud/centralized, Edge, and client in a flexible manner to be optimised by use-case, business, and environmental considerations.

Expansion into new use-cases in government, business, healthcare, and education, will all deliver gains utilising new capabilities in 6G to do what previous generations of communications technology could not.

For example, better resource-centralised blended education with improved engagement, flexibility and reduced latency can be one outcome.

More efficient transport of goods & services with automated supply-chain management on communications & computing, global positioning systems that utilise AI to help anticipate needs, reduce waste, and address emergencies; can be another.

By combining advanced communications and location information with advanced sensing and distributed computing, mechanical automation becomes more sophisticated. Cooperative robotics will allow automated transportation, as well as playing an essential role in manufacturing, construction, mining, and emergency management.

Immersive telepresence could combine 3D haptic holography and computing to deliver real-time automated language translation for teleconferencing, or integrate a haptic hologram with a digital twin and a physical system for remote training or troubleshooting.

Q: How can use cases like these, be brought about?

A: New use cases require development in technology, business models, policies, and even in social interaction.

The technologies involved will need to manage much higher data rates, reduce latency further, deliver predictable sub-millisecond timing, expand the density of data device/users it can handle, and seamlessly integrate wireline, microwave point-to-point, terrestrial cellular, satellite, Wi-Fi, PAN (Bluetooth), NFC and other network types.

The network will have to become more reliable and resilient, as more pervasive use cases mean it will be used by applications for which the stakes are higher in terms of society, safety, business risk and environmental impact.

New software technologies will be needed for distributed cloud, edge, client computing, while improvements in artificial intelligence will combine with computing to optimise system performance for use cases. And systems resource efficiency will have to improve, with special emphhasis on energy and spectrum.

Significant improvements in cybersecurity will be needed as applied to mobile wireless systems, to cover for a vast expansion of use cases and threat surface, and an increase in the stakes of the systems.   

Q: How does 6G support the growing Internet of Things (IoT) / Internet of Everything (IoE)?

A: As suggested, the flexibility and capability of the network combined with distributed computing and sensing systems—some maybe even embedded into people—means a more seamless interworking of our various communications technologies.

Back in 2016, Mischa Dohler of Kings College London (now with Ericsson) taught a class on IoT in which he stated, “We do not really have an internet of things, we have an intranet of things” (or, rather several intranets of things).

What he meant by this was that the value of IoT (and ultimately IoE) is not just interconnection, but also the use of the resulting data in beneficial and secure ways.

Most IoT systems do not communicate with each other or share data to leverage knowledge (like between a parking management system and a traffic management system). This type of communication is either not done, or it is quite difficult and time-consuming.

Therefore, one big advancement required in 6G has almost nothing to do with the radio link—but much more to do with how the information in the system can be leveraged.

By merging sensing, communications, and distributed computation into a larger programmable network, we can leverage the technology in more comprehensive ways.

Q: What is the 6G specifications roadmap?

A: Assuming 3GPP remains the de-facto specifications group for a global standard, we can expect to see the first work in 3GPP specifications begin around 2025. Some people are claiming that the first implementable 6G features will come in Release 21. 

That said, there are two other things to keep in mind. First, 3GPP is not the only specifications body who will contribute to 6G. Changes will have to be made by IETF, several parts of ETSI, and O-RAN. 

For things to be standardised, however, much work must be done to develop and prove out the technological advances that are needed to realise the vision—the list is not only long, but each item has many levels of complexity and will require innovation across all those levels.

This means that standardisation cannot really start until we have more confidence in our ability to realise the technologies required.    

Q: Where is Keysight positioned in 6G and what is Keysight’s goal?

A: Keysight creates tools for design and measurement from research all the way through to manufacturing, deployment, and operations and from the physical layer up through the applications layer—including security, digital twins, and our own growing use of AI. 

We are thus in the position to provide the tools for technologists to optimize their designs, model them before they are implemented, assess how well their designs and systems work, and make adjustments and updates to further optimise functionality and performance. Our job is to provide the tools that the wireless communications industry needs to turn the 6G vision into reality.

Roger Nichols’ more than 3 decades of engineering and management experience in wireless test and measurement at Hewlett-Packard, Agilent Technologies and Keysight spans roles in manufacturing, R&D and marketing.

He has managed programs, projects and departments starting with analog cellular radio, evolving to 5G, and on every standard in between. He has been directing Keysight’s 5G, and now 6G programs, since 2014. He is also directing Keysight’s wireless standards strategies.

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