Our future society will be increasingly digitised, hyper-connected and globally data driven. Many widely anticipated future services, including eHealth and autonomous vehicles, will be critically dependent on instant, virtually unlimited wireless connectivity. Mobile communication technologies are expected to progress far beyond anything seen so far in wireless-enabled applications, making everyday lives smoother and safer and dramatically improving the efficiency of businesses.
As fifth generation (5G) research is maturing towards a global standard, the research community must focus on the development of beyond-5G solutions and the 2030 era, i.e. 6G. It is not clear yet what 6G will entail. It will include relevant technologies considered too immature for 5G or which are outside the defined scope of 5G. More specifically, the way in which data is collected, processed, transmitted and consumed within the wireless network will be a key driver for 6G.
The first 6G Wireless Summit in March 2019 launched the process of identifying the key drivers, research requirements, challenges and essential research questions related to 6G. This white paper is the first version for the annually revised series of 6G research visions and can be phrased in one vision statement from the first 6G Wireless Summit: Ubiquitous wireless intelligence.
It is envisioned that we will need new KPI drivers besides the current 5G technical KPIs. Societal megatrends, United Nations (UN) sustainability goals, lowering carbon dioxide emissions, emerging new technical enablers as well as ever increasing productivity demands are critical drivers towards 2030 solutions.
Totally new services such as telepresence and mixed reality will be made possible by high resolution imaging and sensing, accurate positioning, wearable displays, mobile robots and drones, specialized processors, and next-generation wireless networks. Current smart phones are likely to be replaced by pervasive XR experiences with lightweight glasses delivering unprecedented resolution, frame rates, and dynamic range.
6G research should look at the problem of transmitting up to 1 Tbps per user. This is possible through the efficient utilization of the spectrum in the THz regime. Extended spectrum towards THz will enable merging communications and new applications such as 3D imaging and sensing. However, new paradigms for transceiver architecture and computing will be needed to achieve these – there are opportunities for semiconductors, optics and new materials in THz applications to mention a few.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a major role both in link and system-level solutions of 6G wireless networks. New access methods will be needed for truly massive machine-type communications. Modulation and duplexing schemes beyond Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) must be developed and possibly it is time to start looking at analogue types of modulation at THz frequencies.
Security at all levels of future systems will be much more critical in the future and 6G needs a network with embedded trust. The strongest security protection may be achieved in the physical layer. During the 6G era it will be possible to create data markets, and thus, privacy protection is one key enabler for future services and applications.
6G is not only about moving data around – it will become a framework of services, including communication services where all user-specific computation and intelligence may move to the edge cloud. The integration of sensing, imaging and highly accurate positioning capabilities with mobility will open a myriad of new applications in 6G.
Matti Latva-aho and Kari Leppänen
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