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6G to have ripple effects on business and society ‘barely imaginable’ today

Research study outlines key attributes of the vision of 6G communications, including its foundational and enabling technologies, and the potential it will deliver to industries and economies alike

Just as the 5G juggernaut rolls on across the world, the comms industry is actually gearing up for, and exploring the potential opportunities from, the next generation of wireless – 6G.

This is the key finding of a new report by ABI Research, 6GWorld and mobile technologies developer InterDigital, 6G: The network of technology convergence, which set out to outline the key attributes of the 6G vision, its foundational and enabling technologies, and the potential it will deliver to industries and economies alike. The paper also elaborates on new use cases and potential market opportunities for 6G, including the metaverse, avatar communications, sensor networks and digital twin of things.

The report says that unlike 5G and previous generations of wireless technologies aimed at driving network performance towards higher bandwidth, lower latency and greater reliability, 6G is seen as an enabling platform for innovations in computing, artificial intelligence (AI), connectivity, sensors, virtualisation, and more. It is designed to meet higher requirements of global coverage, greater spectral efficiency, lower carbon footprint, and more.

The report identifies the three types of technology convergence emergent in the 6G vision. First, it explores the convergence of communications and computing known as 6G native intelligence, where AI and computing are integral parts to system architecture. Second, it details the telecommunications convergence by which 6G becomes a network of networks for access technologies to enable seamless information flows between individuals, devices and infrastructures. The third convergence is described as the unique mix between virtual and physical spaces as we move towards 6G-enabled ecosystems, such as the metaverse.

To achieve this vision, 6G is said to be in the process of being developed to create a foundation for computing, AI and network technologies to seamlessly blend and structurally change the design of mobile infrastructure. Yet the report warns that the industry’s existing paradigms must blend to ensure end-to-end service delivery of new use cases in 6G.

“Each generation of wireless has fundamentally enhanced our ability to communicate, but 6G will revolutionise how consumers, networks and devices communicate with and among each other,” said Henry Tirri, CTO at InterDigital. “6G promises to build critical bridges between physical and virtual spaces to enable new use cases while optimising industry operations, and we continue to be deeply involved in this critical research and road mapping.”

The study reflects other studies carried out by ABI Research. According to the 6G standards and market developments application analysis report published in May 2021, 2028 and 2029 will be the early commercial deployment years for 6G, with the first standard technology expected around 2026.

ABI observed that while 5G networks are designed to provide a peak data rate of 20Gbps and an average user experience rate of 120Mbps, these numbers need to be revised to 1,000Gbps and 1Gbps, respectively, in 6G to support applications such as holographic communications and X reality, which is a combination of augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality.

ABI regards this as a promising solution for 6G to create a mixed real and virtual environment with either real-time or non-real-time human-machine interaction, where THz communications can play a vital role due to its extremely wide bandwidth.

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