At a time when the mass introduction of 5G technology has just begun in the world, discussions about 6G networks are already underway in the scientific community and in the mobile communications industry: a vision of telecommunications at the turn of the decades 2020-2030, services and scenarios for using mobile communications, types terminals, spectrum needs, key technologies that will allow, as usual in the transition to a new generation of mobile communication technology, to increase the performance of networks by an order of magnitude.
In order for 6G networks to become a reality by 2030, industrial forums and alliances have already been created. Nokia leads Hexa-X, the European Commission’s flagship 6G initiative, and is a founding member of the Next G Alliance, an initiative to promote mobile innovation in North America. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has created the FG NET-2030 Task Force, which is developing the network requirements for the next decade.
With each new generation, the possibilities of mobile communications are expanding: 2G – voice communications, 3G – voice and data communications, 4G – mobile broadband access and support for the Internet of things. 5G technology has powerful capabilities for realizing communication not only for people, but also for supporting industrial applications. Now they are considering 6G technology as a means that will allow to unite the digital and physical world and will allow managing physical objects through their digital counterparts.
Probably, in the era of 6G, the smartphone will remain the main terminal device. But new means of human-machine interaction will make it more convenient to manage and consume information, and advanced voice and gesture control will come to life. Other types of devices will also appear – wearable terminals built into clothing or attached to the human body.
The healthcare sector will greatly benefit from such solutions: permanently wearable devices will provide round-the-clock monitoring of vital human parameters. The combination of artificial intelligence and machine vision, their ability to recognize people and objects, will make wireless video cameras universal sensors. Radio devices and other devices that allow you to receive different physical signals, such as acoustic ones, will be able to collect a variety of information, as it were, to scan the surrounding space and create its digitized model.
These technologies are already being used in many areas from social networks to security systems, where image classification and computer vision are applied. But apart from services.
artificial intelligence will also be used for network infrastructure, from the planning phase, through the deployment phase, and throughout the life cycle of the network. As networks evolve towards an agile cloud architecture, ML/AI-based automation will be a key factor in simplifying network management and optimization. Examples of network cognitive capabilities based on ML/AI include: virtualized network functions deployment location, slicing, quality of service management, mobility management, radio resource management, spectrum sharing functions.
It is likely that ML/AI approaches can also be applied to the organization of the radio interface. Unlike 5G technology, which has numerous options in its specifications and which required a lot of effort at the standardization stage and then at the stage of developing the most acceptable solutions for intervenor interoperability, 6G technology will probably take a different approach with less effort to specify interaction over the air interface.
To standardize 6G, it may be necessary to define only some boundary capabilities, and the entire functional burden for choosing the appropriate algorithm for generating and processing a radio signal at the physical layer (PHY) and the media access layer (MAC) will fall on the ML / AI algorithms. For example, under certain radio conditions, an air interface with multiple subcarriers will be optimal, while under other conditions or with certain capabilities of the radio transmitter, a single component carrier will be more acceptable.
An important issue in the launch of a new generation of mobile communications is the choice of frequency bands. In the case of 6G networks, a three-layer approach is also considered, as for 5G networks: low, medium and high frequencies. To ensure wide radio coverage, the range 470 – 690 MHz is considered. As the main capacitive layer, it is planned to use frequencies in the range of 7 – 20 MHz The 90-250 GHz spectrum will be used for ultra-wideband and high-speed communications, short-distance communications and for the implementation of space scanning functions.
From the point of view of the time of appearance of 6G networks, it is necessary to focus on the stages of work of the ITU and 3GPP standardization bodies. At the World Radio Conference 2023 (WRC-23), the issue of potential frequency bands for 6G networks will be introduced, and a decision on them will be taken at the World Radio Conference 2027 (WRC-27). For networking issues, the 3GPP work milestones are important: research system work is planned to be carried out in 2024-2026, and work on the creation of specifications can be carried out in the period 2026-2028. The first networks may appear closer to 2030.