MIMO|SRG|Ericsson|c-band : 6G Might Be Ready by 2030, But Will Operators?

6G Might Be Ready by 2030, But Will Operators?

“I really, really hope we do not run the risk again of setting aspirational targets for 6G.” More than just making a statement, Stephen Douglas, Head of Market Strategy at Spirent, urged stakeholders to shift the traditional mindset to succeed with the future generation of mobile internet. “[Otherwise] It will simply hold us back as an industry.”

Douglas is not alone in his concerns over where the telecommunications sector might be heading. Actually, an entire panel at MWC 24 in Barcelona took a similar position.

“I think the adoption of 5G had the high expectations created about it when the technology was started to be deployed,” said Javier Maria Arenzana Arias, Partner of Telecom Sector at KPMG. “Now, we are sort of in this disillusionment phase where we expect those cases to come up, especially in the consumer world.”

Of course, some external factors played an important role in delaying the promises 5G would deliver. For instance, the pandemic hit the world almost at the same time companies started to roll out the technology. The disruption of supply chains followed, and then higher interest rates, all of which undermined a potential appetite for research and development investments.

However, the emergence of such challenges is only one of the reasons why 5G took off relatively slowly. Maybe not even the most impactful.

“Unfortunately, as an industry, we tend to set aspirational targets rather than commercially achievable KPIs,” Douglas added.

The problem with this approach, as the expert pointed out, is that aspirations often are disconnected from real needs in the real world.

“We set these aspirational targets of latency down to one millisecond on the air interface or throughput speeds. And the reality is there wasn’t necessarily a market demand for any of those capabilities on day one. In fact, I would argue there’s a limited demand even at the moment,” Douglas said.

Shift the Course for 6G?

If experts argue that the industry has been tackling the target issue the wrong way, they also point out potential solutions for the problem. One is getting rid of KPIs. 

“I stopped caring about KPIs some time ago,” Dimitra Simeonidou, Professor and Co-Director of Bristol Digital Futures Institute and Director at Smart Internet Lab, revealed at the panel.

According to her, aspects like speed, low latency, the number of devices connected to networks, and similar topics are intrinsic to the telecommunications industry.

“In my opinion, if we really want to succeed, we must focus on values—the values we bring to our industry, to other industries, and to society,” she said.

“For instance, instead of talking about speed, let’s talk about availability, reliability, and reach. When we are discussing security, let’s also include privacy and trust. So the KPI discussion needs to change from performance to values – and then we’ll start talking in terms of disruption,” Simeonidou observed.

A shift in the sector’s mindset – from performance to values, for example – enables several other fundamental questions to arise. One of them, which was already voiced in the last 6GSymposium Spring edition, concerns the classic pace of commercial deployments.

“I think the question we really need to ask ourselves is: Do we even need 6G in a current generational ten-year format?” Douglas asked.

“Very few operators have upgraded to Release 16 yet. So they’ve got Release 17 to come, which brings in a lot of features for enterprises. Release 18 – for 5G Advanced – only gets frozen this year. And you’re probably going to have two more major releases before whatever the 6G system is,” he argued.

And here lies, according to him, an opportunity to demonstrate the real 5G capabilities – when standalone is finally deployed. When that happens, it will be about unlocking the value of the technology over the next ten years. “Then we’ll see what the 6G system is.”




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