6G: The development of a new generation of mobile communications

5G is the latest and most efficient standard available in the field of mobile communications. The networks of various operators are currently still in expansion throughout Germany. Despite the fact that a noticeable progress is visible in this field, it will take some time before the large-scale availability of this technology is guaranteed. Nevertheless, efforts are already being made to develop the next generation: the future standard for mobile communications, 6G, will become the successor of 5G, enabling numerous applicable scenarios that were unthinkable until that moment.

What is 6G exactly and what are the advantages?

One of the main advantages of 6G will be the significantly higher speed, in comparison to the current standards of mobile networks. According to researchers, transmission rates of up to one terabit per second will be possible. Moreover, the new technology will be able to use significantly higher frequencies, compared to current standards. This opens the door to a higher capacity and even lower latency periods compared to 5G: the latency of 6G will probably fall in the microsecond range and thus significantly shorter than the one of fifth-generation mobile communications, with a latency of up to one millisecond. Moreover, the new standard of mobile communications will be extremely fail-safe and energy-efficient. All these characteristics allow for a very reliable communication, which for many applications is significantly more important than an increased transfer speed.

The 6G network should be intelligent, for instance it should be able to optimize itself with the help of artificial intelligence, providing the necessary performance at the right time and place. Hereto, the mobile network should collaborate with countless sensors, whereby the radio signals are not only transferring data, but they have the capacity to convey information themselves. For example, it could tell whether an object is located between the receiver and the transmitter.

Possible application areas

The new generation of mobile communication standards should improve the performance of existent 5G applications, as well as guarantee a significant expansion of new, innovative areas of application. To achieve the best possible conditions here, many of the development projects depend on the cooperation with the business world and society in general. For example, a Bavarian research project has launched the “Thinknet 6G” platform, on which the requirements of various parties are collected.

When it comes to already-existing technologies, significant advances are expected in the field of wireless sensor solutions. In addition, the 6G technology would also make it possible to think of diverse technologies that could be integrated into our living environment for the first time, requiring the highest possible reliability in consequence. Some examples might include the fully-autonomous driving or the control of medical surgical equipment, with both applications requiring a millimeter accurate control and instantaneous reactions. On the other hand, scenarios such as extended reality might become conceivable, with the result being people streamed in 3D and in real time, at the highest possible resolution to mobile devices or even directly into our living spaces.

Why the early research? Is the 5G technology already obsolete?

The first researches for a new mobile communication standard began as early as 2017. At the moment, there are several projects worldwide, usually involving technology companies and governments. This includes the European project “Hexa-X”, which began in January 2021. The EU has made available 900 million Euros for this flagship initiative, with an initial planned runtime of 2.5 years. There are 22 companies involved in the project, which is coordinated by Nokia, while the Swedish company Ericsson is in charge of the technical management. Among the participating companies, there are also network operators such as Telefónica and Orange, as well as Siemens and Intel. At the moment, the project finds itself in the basic research phase, where the parties involved are trying to determine what is necessary for the implementation of standards and the development of a 6G network architecture.

Despite the already intensive research, the 5G technology is naturally far from being obsolete. Precisely as the current LTE and even 3G until recently, 5G will continue to be used after the introduction of a new mobile communication standard. Moreover, the development of a new mobile network technology needed around 10 years in the past, and with 6G, it has been estimated that it will not become available before 2030 either.

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