Enabling the Future of Networks
With the advent of 6G, the mobile area network is set to witness a new era of possibilities. Building upon the achievements of 5G, the deployment of 6G technologies offers even greater potential. 6G promises to revolutionise the way we connect with enhanced network capabilities such as higher speeds, or ultra-reliable and low-latency communication within a 3D network paradigm.
Potentially offering a staggering 50 to 100 times more capacity than its predecessor, with data rates reaching terabit-per-second levels and sub-millisecond latencies, 6G enables a pivotal capacity to support the seamless functioning of emerging applications and services. Leveraging the intelligence and computing power of next-generation networks, 6G will demonstrate an array of improved use cases, benefiting both the network infrastructure and end-users alike. These advancements encompass transformative capabilities such as 3D localisation with one-centimetre precision, facilitating applications like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), robotics, telematics, autonomous vehicles, brain-computer interfaces, and smart cities.
Introducing ENABLE-6G: Enabling Technology for Next-Generation Networks
ENABLE- 6G is an umbrella project consisting of two sub-projects: RISC-6G and MAP-6G. RISC-6G focuses on enabling technology for new 6G services, integrating sensing and reflective intelligence into the network. In concurrence, MAP-6G focuses on utilising data from these technologies in an efficient and responsible manner. Together, these projects aim to drive the development and implementation of 6G networks and services while increasing the flexibility of the services offered, sensing on the RISC-6G side and machine learning within MAP-6G.
The Future of Networks
The next generation of mobile networks holds immense possibilities to address diverse scenarios and deliver collaborative services. From our recent interview with Ioannis Arapakis, the Principal Scientist of MAP-6G and Co-Director of Telefónica Research, the future of networks includes telepresence, augmented reality, automated machines, and global service intelligence as a common network service. With 6G, the boundaries between virtual and physical entities will blur, allowing for seamless coexistence. 6G networks will empower innovative applications by leveraging the power of intelligence and computing. Ioannis emphasises,
“The key technology that I believe will be enabled by 6G includes both network and end-user services, leveraging intelligence and computing power.”
Enabled by 6G networks, our society is on the brink of a digital transformation of unprecedented magnitude. Connectivity will become ubiquitous, leading to improved quality of life and heightened productivity. The integration of the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber-physical systems, and smart connectivity will unlock a world of new possibilities. The deployment of 6G technologies across essential sectors will reshape industries and economies within the next decade, where for example, the deployment of 6G networks will enable advancements in telemedicine, which could allow for remote surgeries and remote patient monitoring. As Ioannis Arapakis aptly states;
“We will be dealing with basically programmable network infrastructure that will be the central nervous system, relied upon by the digital society.”
Addressing network challenges
With each technological advancement, specific challenges are targeted and addressed. In the case of 5G, key improvements included reduced latency or response (1) , increased bandwidth, greater capacity, and improved reliability. As 5G deployments progressed, new challenges emerged, some of which were resolved within the 5G framework while others transitioned to be addressed in future technologies like 6G. ENABLE-6G focuses on tackling these challenges, with a particular emphasis on data privacy, security, sensing capabilities, AI-driven analysis, low-power consumption devices, and reducing the network’s carbon footprint.
The project aims to enhance connectivity, coverage, and localisation capabilities while minimising the need for extensive access points. Leveraging technologies like Reconfigurable Intelligent Surface (RIS) devices, ENABLE-6G seeks to optimise communication, improve channel conditions, and create new opportunities for connectivity; thus unlocking fresh business potential and enhancing user experiences.
Scalability, reliability, energy efficiency and protection of user data privacy in the development of 6G networks play a vital role. Scalability is essential for seamlessly integrating the increasing number of connected devices and accommodating future demands. Reliability is crucial as it ensures uninterrupted access to critical services and applications, enabling users to consistently enjoy data and services without any disruptions. Energy efficiency is a key consideration, as it helps reduce the carbon footprint associated with the escalating data demands, promoting sustainability.
Additionally, safeguarding user data privacy is of utmost importance in the era of connected devices and extensive data transmission, and includes preventing unauthorised access and respecting individual privacy rights. Techniques such as federated learning and determining the optimal level of data aggregation granularity play a critical role in pushing the boundaries of 6G research, striking the right balance between efficient analytics and preserving privacy-sensitive information.
The future of 6G
Although the next generation of networks won’t be available until at least 2030, the ENABLE 6G team are already researching ways to revolutionise mobile networks. With increased connectivity, improved quality of services, and the advent of collaborative applications, the future of networks is set to be truly groundbreaking. ENABLE 6G’s commitment to addressing challenges, driving research, and fostering collaboration will shape this transformative journey, enabling a seamless digital society powered by the potential of 6G technologies.
(1) Lower latency refers to a minimal delay in the processing of computer data over a network connection. Lower Latency Definition