Kelvin Chaffer, CEO of Lifecycle Software
Despite the launch of commercial 5G still fresh in everyone’s mind, tech companies don’t stand still and already have their gaze forward. With China sending ‘the world’s first 6G satellite’ into orbit and the UK investing £110 million to ramp up the development of next-generation 6G network technology, countries are increasingly entering the race to dominate the 6G innovations.
The higher speeds, virtually no latency, and masses of bandwidth expected to come with 6G networks can further revolutionise how telcos operate and deliver value to their customers, from enhanced network capabilities to customer experience. However, it brings a host of new security concerns. For example, a key theme around 6G is connecting everything in our daily lives and businesses in new ways. As a result, an attack on these systems could wreak serious havoc, and it’s up to telcos to overcome these challenges.
The endless possibilities with 6G
6G offers improvements in terms of performance and capacity. It is designed to explore more frequency bands, particularly in mmWave GHz and sub-THz ranges, offering broader bandwidth access capable of delivering up to 1 terabit per second of capacity. It also encompasses latency as minuscule as 1 microsecond and improved security, delivering a higher quality of experience for an expanded set of use cases.
6G networks are anticipated to support beyond mobile-centric applications to include other technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT). Mobile network operators are expected to adopt flexible, decentralised 6G models that include local spectrum licensing, spectrum sharing, and infrastructural sharing. Intelligence automatic management will power these adaptations, which harness the capabilities of mobile edge computing, short-packet communication, and blockchain technologies. In this context, the metaverse will undeniably influence the structuring of 6G networks. Notably, the superior performance and low latency of 6G will back high-definition visuals, realistic haptic feedback, and enhanced location-based experiences.
Simultaneously, the widespread adoption of eSIM technology accelerates convenience and flexibility. The list of eSIM-compatible phones and devices keeps growing. The transition from physical SIM cards to virtual, programmable counterparts enhances user accessibility, particularly in a global context. This paradigm shift eliminates the logistical challenges associated with SIM card swaps, providing users with a streamlined and efficient connectivity solution. Together, 6G and eSIM technologies emerge as synergistic forces, providing seamless and flexible connectivity for B2B and B2C.
6G is expected to amplify the potential of technologies such as autonomous vehicles, smart factories, and drones, even highlighting the use of AI for seamless coordination and functioning. Self-driving cars might leverage collaborative AI for communication with other cars for tasks like navigation, object/pedestrian avoidance, and real-time traffic updates. Through AI and edge computing, devices like traffic lights and streetlights could act as networking antennas in their environment, facilitating uninterrupted Wi-Fi connections for nearby vehicles and pedestrians.
AR and VR technologies could offer more immersive experiences in the future, fostering possibilities like connected implants or wireless human-computer interfaces that render digital surfaces and objects tactile. This technology can be employed in many applications, such as multisensory XR applications, connected robotics and autonomous systems (CRAS), wireless brain-computer interactions, blockchain, and many more.
Overcoming security concerns
Compared to 5G, the 6G network uses an open security framework. As a result, traditional network security mechanisms like IPsec and firewalls may fail to safeguard the network from external threats. To mitigate this challenge, the security structure for 6G should align with the fundamental security principle of Zero Trust (ZT) within the mobile communication network, prioritising protecting system resources above all else. It operates under the assumption that a potential threat could reside within the network and considers the network infrastructure as potentially open or untrustworthy from an external point of view.
Furthermore, many telcos are working around the clock to fortify security in 6G networks, integrating advanced security measures such as quantum-resistant cryptography and blockchain technology. For example, Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) can be merged with developing cryptographic algorithms for amplified security. The quantum keys derived from QKD can be leveraged to carry out post-quantum encryption (PQE) cryptographic algorithms. With 6G networks using a hybrid encryption schema, integrating both QKD and PQE will ensure impenetrable end-to-end security for its users.
Edge computing is another crucial aspect common to both 5G and 6G networks. This technology enables data to be processed nearer to its origin, reducing latency time and easing the burden on central data centres. By confining the amount of data transmitted across the network, this localised processing improves security, lessening the chances of data being intercepted. Additionally, edge computing allows more sophisticated implementation of AI-driven security measures, thus enabling instant threat detection and response.
AI is set to play a significant role in the security of 6G infrastructures. Using machine learning algorithms, AI-driven security measures can dynamically adapt to these networks, effectively identifying and alleviating threats compared to conventional rule-based systems. Integrating AI into network management also enables proactive upkeep, decreasing downtime risks due to hardware failures or unpredicted issues.
6G technology marks a monumental advancement in wireless communication networks, pledging substantial speed, capacity, and latency enhancements. As these technologies continue to develop, emphasising strong security measures and harnessing progressive technologies like edge computing and AI will be critical to unleashing their maximal potential and fostering a more secure and interconnected world.
Alex Lawrence is Managing Editor at 6GWorld. His mission is to bring together stakeholders from across industries, countries and disciplines to make sure that, as technology evolves in the coming decade, it’s meeting the changing demands of society, government and business.
He has been involved as a professional nosy person in the telecoms sphere since 2004, with short detours through industrial O&M and marketing.
If you’d like to talk to Alex about your ideas or projects he’d love to hear from you. @animalawrence or email@example.com.