Flexibility is key when navigating the future of 6G

The differences between 5G and 6G are not only about what bandwidth storage will make 6G in the future and how users will connect to the network, but also about the intelligence built into the network and devices. “The collection of 6G fabric-making networks should work differently for augmented reality (AR) headsets than e-mail clients on mobile devices,” says Shaharyar Shahramian, research lead at Nokia Bell Laboratories. “Communication providers need to address a plethora of technical challenges in order for different networks based on different technologies to function seamlessly,” he says. Devices have to jump between different frequencies, adjust data rates and adapt to specific application needs, which can run locally, on the edge of the cloud or on public service.

“One of the complexities of 6G will be how we bring the various wireless technologies together so that they can give each other and work together really well, without the end user knowing about it,” says Shahramian. “That’s the hard part of the handoff.”

Although the current 5G network allows customers to experience more seamless handoffs as devices move across different networks – high bandwidth and low latency – 6G will also launch a self-aware network capable of supporting and facilitating emerging technologies that today Struggling to crawl. Virtual reality and augmented reality technology, for example, and self-driving cars. Artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, which will be integrated into 5G as it develops into the standard 5G-advanced, will be used by architects in 6G from the beginning to simplify technical tasks such as optimizing radio signals and scheduling data traffic efficiently.

The graphic demonstrates 2G to 6G broadband tech capabilities
Credit: Nokia; Used with permission.

“Finally this [technologies] Can give radio the ability to learn from each other and their environments, “two Nokia researchers wrote in a post on the future of AI and ML in communication networks.” The best possible way to communicate – by choosing from millions of possible configurations. “

Testing technology that does not yet exist

Although this technology is still innovative, it is complex, so it is clear that testing will play a crucial role in the process. “Companies that make testbeds for 6G should argue with the simple fact that 6G is an ambitious goal, and not yet a real-world specification,” says Jue. It continues, “The network complexity required to fulfill the 6G vision will require repeated and comprehensive testing of all aspects of the ecosystem; But because 6G is an innovative network concept, the tools and technology needed to reach it need to be adaptable and flexible. ”

Extensive research is needed to determine which bandwidth will be used and for which application. Second- and third-generation cellular networks use low- and mid-range wireless bands with frequencies up to 2.6GHz. The next generation, 4G, extended it to 6Ghz, while the current technology goes even further by adding so-called “mmWave” (millimeter wave) to 5G, 71GHz.

To power the required bandwidth requirements of 6G, Nokia and KeySite are partnering to investigate the sub-terahertz spectrum for communication, which raises new technological issues. In general, the higher the frequency of the cellular spectrum, the wider the available corresponding bandwidth, and therefore the higher the data rate; But this comes at the expense of a reduced range for the specific strength of the signal. Low-power Wi-Fi networks using the 2.6Ghz and 5Ghz bands, for example, have a range of ten meters, but cellular networks using 800Mhz and 1.9Ghz have a range of kilometers. Adding 24-71GHz to 5G means that the associated cells are also smaller (tens to hundreds of meters). And for bands above 100GHz, the challenges are more significant.

“It simply came to our notice then. “One of the new key interruptions for 6G could be the move from the millimeter bands used in 5G to the sub-terahertz bands, which are relatively explored for wireless communication,” he says. “Those bands have the potential to offer a wide variety of spectrum that can be used for high-data-throughput applications, but they also represent a lot of strangers.”

Adding a sub-terahertz band to the toolbox of a wireless communication device could open up a vast network of sensing devices, high-fidelity augmented reality and locally networked vehicles if technology companies can meet the challenges.

In addition to the various spectrum bands, new ideas for future 6G networks will have to use new network architectures and better methods of security and reliability. In addition, devices will need additional sensors and processing capabilities to adapt to network conditions and optimize communication. To do all this, 6G will need the foundations of artificial intelligence and machine learning to manage the complexities and interactions between each part of the system.

Nokia’s Shahramian says, “Whenever you introduce new wireless technology, whenever you bring in new spectrum, you quickly make your problem harder,” says Nokia’s Shahramian.

Nokia expects to start rolling out 6G technology before 2030. Because the definition of 6G remains fluid, development and testing platforms need to support a variety of devices and applications, and should include a wide variety of use cases. Furthermore, today’s technology may not even meet the requirements required to test a potential 6G application, requiring companies such as KeySite to build new testbed platforms and adapt to changing needs.

Simulation technologies developed and used today, such as digital twins, will be used to create adaptive solutions. The technology allows real-world data from physical prototypes to be integrated back into simulation, resulting in future designs that work better in the real world.

“However, when it comes to creating accurate simulations of real physical data, digital twins will allow for more agility for companies developing technology,” says KeySite.

Simulation helps avoid many interactive, and time-consuming, design steps that can slow the development that relies on successive physical prototypes.

“Indeed, one of the keys here is a high level of flexibility, and helps customers to be able to initiate their research and testing, while also providing the flexibility to change and navigate through that change as technology evolves,” says Ju. Therefore, starting design exploration in a simulation environment and then combining that flexible simulation environment with a scalable sub-THz testbed for 6G research helps provide that flexibility. “

Nokia’s Shahramian agrees that this is a long process, but the goal is clear “For the technology cycle, a decade is a long loop. For the complex technological systems of 6G, however, 2030 is an aggressive goal. To meet the challenge, the development and testing equipment must match the agility of the engineers trying to build the next network. The rewards are significant – a fundamental change in the way we interact with devices and the way we interact with technology. “

This content was created by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.

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