International Bodies Already in a Quest for the Single 6G Standard

April 24, 2023

Written by Caio Castro

“It’s been a busy year.”

David Lister, Futurist at Vodafone and co-chair of NGMN, has been dealing with a lot of 6G discussions in the past months. NGMN, for example, published a document outlining 6G requirements and design considerations last February.

He is not the only one to notice it. “It’s not a bad thing,” said Adrian Scrase, CTO at ETSI. “But I’m surprised by how much we’re talking about 6G now.”

Those talks will only heat up from now on. Lister and Scrase spoke at the 6GSymposium Spring 2023 this week. The ITU will finalise its 6G vision by the end of 2023. 3GPP is already preparing release 19. ETSI hosted a 6G conference. And several initiatives are set to publish their reports throughout the year.

The point is: with so much going on, will everyone speak the same language? Maybe, according to Scrase. “You need standards. They assure 6G will work properly [everywhere],” he observed.

In his view, the industry is going in the right direction when it comes to figuring out one single, global standard for 6G. The strongest evidence of this movement is that there are commonalities among the several visions and documents already published.

For example, the controversial – yet possible – move from millimetre wave to terahertz, the non-terrestrial networks, 6G capabilities like ultra-fast speed, and sensing, among other topics.

On the other hand, not everything is sorted out. Scrase believes there is a chance standardisation discussions could become fragmented with so much national and local research going on in what has been a race to become the “6G leader”.

The situation could worsen if particular players are excluded from the game.

However, not everyone agrees that this is the path we are heading to. “At this point, I don’t think we have a fragmentation [in the discussions to create a framework],” replied Eiman Mohyeldin, Head of Spectrum Standardisation at Nokia, at the same event.

6G? One Thing at a Time

Is it too early to start planning for 6G? The answer, according to the experts, is definitely no. Does it mean everyone should shift the focus from 5G to the next generation of mobile internet? Again, the answer is definitely no.

“The primary focus in 3GPP at this point is to complete Release 18 in time and to prepare for Release 19,” Wanshi Chen, Chair of the 3GPP Technical Specification Group (TSG) RAN.

He said that 3GPP’s timeline for 6G will wait a bit, as the idea is not to create a distraction to the Release 19 package discussion. It will eventually happen.

When it happens, Chen foresees a series of questions up to answers such as:

  • When should be the first 6G workshop?
  • Should the 6G workshop be ahead of any RAN-level study?
  • When should the first 6G release be completed?
  • Should 3GPP target one or two releases for ITU submission in 2030?

While the approaches may vary, they all target the same destination: around 2030. Some think it will be earlier, and some believe it will be later, but common sense is that we will have something at the end of the decade. Whether it’s a commercial-ready 6G network or some type of single standard, it’s still to be seen.

It should be a busy year, indeed.

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