Telecoms, Trends, Tech...
6G networks will look drastically different from today’s. Telepresence holograms will be the norm, and the networks’ primary users will be machines. But does the kind of hardware these networks will run on even exist yet?
Telecoms giants like Nokia and Samsung are already looking into the hardware and software needed to make 6G a reality by 2030.
One major driving force for 6G infrastructure will be the Internet of Things. 6G will primarily be a network for machines to communicate with each other, with humans as secondary users, potentially using the extra bandwidth for virtual or augmented reality, telepresence holograms, and touch-controlled robotics for precision tasks.
Today’s 5G networks use tradeoffs like disaggregated functions in the radio access network (RAN), virtualised network hardware, and edge computing to cut costs and increase performance. 6G can’t rely on these trade-offs; it’ll be a network for an always-online, fully-connected world, requiring so much RAN throughput and computing capability that separate hardware and software functions won’t be able to handle it.
Engineers will need to create a new spectrum, with new hardware and metamaterials, and new AI and machine learning applications. The main communication technologies being considered are terahertz frequencies and visible light communications (VLC).
Terahertz frequencies, once seen as unusable, may be a reality by 2030. However, there are potential issues, including data loss and the need for advanced beamforming technologies and antenna lenses. VLC could offer a cost-effective alternative, using modulated LEDs and extending mobile coverage by piggybacking on pre-existing RF applications.
Another solution to the THz issue could be micron-thick printed electronics, creating reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) that could potentially also replace antennas and help overcome line-of-sight problems.
Engineers from across the sector will have to work together to overcome the challenges and create high-throughput, high-reliability 6G networks by 2030.