Instead of individual networks, ubiquitous infrastructure; instead of independent services, multiple applications using composable service elements: that’s how 6G will likely operate when it is deployed, at least according to a new report published by ABI Research.
The paper goes on to call 6G the “network of convergences” due to the number of requirements and need for interoperability between different environments it is expected to encompass.
“Requirements include global coverage, spectral efficiency, lower carbon footprint, cost effectiveness, bullet proof security, and embedded intelligence through native artificial intelligence [AI] implementation,” the study reads.
Rather than specific discussions of use cases or spectrum, the report focuses on defining how networks might operate in the future, especially in light of drivers towards different points of convergence. The study emphasises the way that such end-goals relate to steps taken in the specifications for 5G and the work packages for 5G-Advanced, building on innovations in these standards.
According to the authors, 6G will be a key enabler for massive data processing compared to 4G and 5G. This is one of the reasons why industries need to develop a robust solution to integrate two domains that are currently separate in 4G and 5G: computing and connectivity infrastructure.
“While 5G is considering computing and intelligence functions as add-on functionalities that could be implemented incrementally on the top of connectivity, in the 6G era computing and intelligence will be implemented natively in the network and will be considered as integral parts of 6G standards, almost as important as connectivity,” the study points out.
One of the essential tools to make this computing-communications convergence feasible is AI, which, according to the report, should enable intelligence on demand.
Convergence in Telecommunications
A second type of convergence will address interoperability between different access types, allowing data traffic to flow through fixed networks, cellular networks of all kinds, or satellite networks according to need. This should lower costs and provide end-users with an agile, resilient and adaptable delivery of information with reliable coverage.
“To materialize this global and ubiquitous experience, 6G specifications should offer great architectural flexibility to accommodate heterogeneous spectrum capabilities beyond the current terrestrial systems of today. Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) systems, including remote satellite communications, low orbit satellites, or unmanned aerial systems should be an integral part of the 6G network deployment,” the authors say.
Digital and Physical Combined
The third convergence should blend digital and physical environments, according to the report, and will require bandwidths up to the Terabits/second per base-station, ultra-low latency below millisecond, ultra-reliability and dynamic slicing to efficiently enable expected use cases like digital twins, volumetric video or sensing.
“6G promises to blur the boundaries between digital and real spaces. The technology will enable the extension of the end-user experience beyond the physical reality. Under this vision, users will be able to visualize, monitor, operate, or even simulate the reality of physical objects in a digital world without any physical constraints,” the study reads.
However, the authors highlight that the industry, in general, will not wait for 6G to introduce sensory networks, stressing that works in 5G-Advanced promise to support the transition to 6G.
The full report is available here.
Journalist since eight years old, when I would read the newspaper out loud and pretend it was a radio show. Based in São Paulo, I have worked for Brazilian websites as reporter and editor before joining 6GWorld