A major project is set to start this week to develop technologies and new strategies for 6G wireless. The Hexa-X project is led by Nokia with Ericsson as the technical lead with 23 other members.
The 2.5 year project project aims to develop and integrate key technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), radio access beyond 100 GHz, network virtualisation and disaggregation for the next generation of wireless networks by 2030.
A timely start of a technology and concept evaluation is required, even if some of these technologies are still on a low Technology Readiness Level (TRL), to understand the potential performance and impact on the overall system architecture, says the project. Developing a new network generation takes about 10 years, and to guide the Research and Innovation (R&I) globally towards 6G during this time, Hexa-X will lay the foundation for the network of 2030 and develop long-term strategical roadmaps based on the project as well as other 6G projects.
Universities and research institutes are at the heart of the project to commercialise the latest technologies. These include Aalto, Chalmers, CEA, Kaiserlautern, Dresden, Madrid, Olu, Torino and Pisa
Other commercial partners include Siemens, Intel, Atos, bcom, Sztaki, Qacom, Nextworks and Wings ICT Solutions. Operators in the project include Orange, Telefonica and TIM.
“The future is 6G,” said Andreas Wolfgang, Technical Development Manager at Qamcom in Sweden. “Qamcom will be able to contribute with qualitative research based on cutting-edge expertise and many years of experience within telecom and wireless connectivity.”
“Even though there is still a lot of innovation in 5G with the release of new standards, we are already exploring 6G in our research lab. In the 6G era we will see applications that will not only connect humans with machines but also connect humans with the digital world,” said Peter Vetter, Head of Access and Devices Research at Nokia Bell Labs.
Next: Six areas for 6G
“Such a secure and private connection can be used for preventive healthcare or even to create a 6G network with a sixth sense that intuitively understands our intentions, making our interactions with the physical world more effective and anticipating our needs, thereby improving our productivity,” said Vetter.
The heart of the project is to develop an open, modular, and flexible framework called the x-enabler fabric. This will integrate and weave together the technical enablers that address six research challenges, from both Hexa-X project itself and other 6G projects.
These six areas cover:
Bandwidth: access bitrates in the order of hundreds of Gbps to few Tbps with extremely low (imperceptible) latencies, seemingly infinite capacity and -precision localisation and sensing.
Connecting intelligence: large-scale deployments of intelligence in the wider society through advanced resource management, supplementary data, functionality and insights ultimately enabling real-time trustworthy control – transforming AI/Machine Learning (ML) technologies into a vital and trusted tool for significantly improved efficiency and service experience, with the human factor (“human in the loop”) integrated.
Network of networks: 6G will aggregate multiple types of resources, including communication, data and AI processing that optimally connect at different scales, ranging from, e.g., in-body, intra-machine, indoor, data centres, to wide areas networks. This integration results in an enormous heterogeneous digital ecosystem that eventually creates a single network of networks.
Sustainability: 6G has to be an energy-optimised digital infrastructure and this will change the full resource chains of wireless networks, says the project. The digital fabric will also create the ability to sense and understand the state of the physical world in real-time and as such boost sustainability from the environmental, economic, and social perspectives. This is particularly important after the Covid-19 pandemic, to create a circular economy and a sustainable world.
Trustworthiness: 6G also has to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of end-to-end communications, and guarantee data privacy, operation resilience and security, building trust of wireless networks as well as its enabled applications among consumers and enterprises.
The project is also putting digital inclusion as one of the top priorities for 6G with global coverage, connecting remote places, e.g., in rural areas, transport over oceans or vast land masses, enabling new services and businesses that will promote economic growth and reduce the digital divide as well as improving safety and operation efficiency in those currently under-/uncovered areas.
The move to 6G will also lead to a new class of evaluation criteria, Key Value Indicators (KVIs), based on these six areas.
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