Yet another paradigm shift?
Even though the world’s first 5G networks are only just up and running, the race to develop the next generation of mobile network has already begun. The big picture for 6G is only just starting to be sketched out, but certain main pathways are clear. As with previous generations, we expect to see the first rollouts within ten years.
A future market that follows through from 5G
If 5G is being touted as a paradigm shift, no longer focused solely on transporting voice and data, but also working to meet the needs of new players and new business models, 6G is expected to solve major technological challenges, while still being a natural progression of 5G in many ways.
On paper, this means continuing to ramp up and scale up, delivering speeds in the Terabit range and a latency of 0.1 ms, coupled with greater energy efficiency, greater reliability and 3D geolocation capabilities down to the centimetre. Achieving this will be no small challenge as using frequency bands up to 10 THz will pose problems. Because of these bands’ very short range of around 10 metres, new deployment models will be needed, and possibly the emergence of new economic players.
6G set to deliver significant improvement on 5G capacities
Comparison of 5G and 6G key indicators
6G: a strategic challenge
Several kinds of player are currently involved in developing 6G: equipment suppliers, of course, but also universities and R&D centres. The 6G Flagship group’s initiative, created by Finland’s University of Oulu, which is one of Nokia’s major partners, is a prime example, but noteworthy too is the momentum we are seeing in Asia (China, Japan, South Korea), and in the United States to a lesser degree. A major challenge lies ahead for all of these players since, as with 5G and 4G before it, standards need to be put into place to secure control over intellectual property, which is synonymous with royalties and greater independence from other economic and geostrategic powers. The directions taken and features chosen will shape the ecosystem and the positive externalities that are up for grabs – hence governments’ keen interest in the process.
Security and privacy protection: a key distinction for 6G
5G vs. 6G in the areas of security, adaptability, spectrum efficiency, intelligence and energy efficiency
Artificial intelligence: the cornerstone of more agile networks
The seeds of 6G’s conceptual contributions can already be found in 5G, although more maturity and technological developments will no doubt be needed before they can come to fruition. This includes artificial intelligence and machine learning, whose use in networks is still only fledgling. As massive MIMO systems are likely to become more commonplace, and network topologies ever more complex, automation and dynamic optimisation of resource use will be more crucial than ever before. While virtualisation will be a central part of 5G networks’ operation, artificial intelligence will have the job of undergirding a fluid and decentralised architecture, from network core to wireless transmission.
6G will expand 5G applications
Expected 6G use cases
What new applications will 6G bring?
Thanks to networks’ increased capacity in terms of speed, latency and availability, 6G will likely deliver improved versions of applications ushered in by 5G. Higher resolution video (8K to 64k), Tactile Internet, holographic telepresence and expanded reality (AR/VR/MR) experiences will no doubt become a reality. But it is especially the hyper-densification of networks, their indoor geolocation capabilities and support for ubiquitous sensors in the user environment that will enable greater contextualisation for services. Beyond these enhanced experiences and ever greater capacities, the key challenges remain public and private sector players’ adoption and the creation of new business models.