Spilling the Tea on 6G

A look into the future of 6G networks

hands holding cell phone devices in shape of circle in center is burst of light

The conversation about 6G technology is picking up steam as we approach the predicted beginning of the 6G era. After all, 2030 is only seven years away. As you may know, 6G—the sixth generation of wireless technology—will not only build the advances 5G has made in speed and capacity but will also extend ”intelligence” through the network natively. It is also predicted to change the physical structure of mobile networks. (By the way, if you’d like a refresher on 2G, 3G, or 4G technologies, see What is 2G, 3G, 4G? For more information on 5G, see What is 5G?)

What Will 6G Networks Look Like?

6G is currently being debated and defined by various coalitions of research, governmental, and industry organizations, but we do know that 6G will start where the last 5G Advanced specifications end. 6G is predicted to operate in higher frequencies—the terahertz (THz) spectrum—with lower latency than 5G.

Because transmitting in the THz frequencies is best for short ranges only, cellular networks might become mesh networks, using multiple base stations and smaller inexpensive antennas to create microcells that can be accessed concurrently by 6G devices, or by relying on side links between smart devices and smart surfaces to create an Internet of Everything (IoE) as networking elements to create microcells—or via some combination, leading to ambient connectivity.

Advances toward full duplex communication, which allows two-way transmission on the same frequency while doubling the capacity of current bandwidths, and satellite time sharing show real promise for the bandwidth and speed of 6G-based technologies.

Additionally, recent successes with vortex millimeter waves in which researchers transmitted 1 terabyte of data over 1 kilometer (3,300 feet) within one second suggest yet another possibility for 6G network infrastructure.

Whether one network architecture wins out or a combination of architectures is used (my best guess), mobile edge computing and core computing certainly will be completely integrated. Likely, computing infrastructure and connectivity infrastructure will merge, with artificial intelligence (AI) distributing “intelligence” across the entire network.

How Fast Will 6G Be?

Using some or all of this new architecture, 6G networks are expected to support data rates of 1 terabit per second. That’s 1,000,000 megabits. So, fast fast.

What Will 6G Networks Mean for Subscribers?

  • Holographic-type communications. Remember Princess Leia’s message to Obi-Wan? Remember it was glitchy and the color was bad? Imagine that technology in real life. That means fully integrated and full-resolution remote learning, geographically dispersed team meetings, telemedicine, museum exhibits, theatrical productions–you name it. The tools we’re just learning to use could be truly enjoyable and commonplace experiences with 6G.
  • Five-sense networks with fully tactile haptics. What’s this mean? It means the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences we’re just now enjoying will be turned up to 11. Imagine being able to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste your VR experience. Sure, gaming will be amazing, but what about mundane reality? With the ultra-reliable low-latency potential of 6G networks, fully tactile haptics for prosthetic users could mean seamless—possibly even neurological—integration with those users’ devices and instantaneous response, perhaps using Wi-Fi implants.
  • Time-engineered applications. With the extremely low latency promised, large-scale, real-time, precise synchronization is possible—think super-efficient manufacturing or ports, road traffic-flow maintenance that is variable with traffic conditions minute by minute, or continuous monitoring of trains and tracks.
  • Information and communication technologies (ICT) improvements to critical infrastructure. As the IoE becomes a reality, search and rescue efforts could get as granular as each individual in a disaster.
  • Custom microservices. The development of user-specific, use-case-specific, and location-specific microservices. Will we see custom even transitory network slicing for individuals?
  • Unmanned vehicles. Autonomous vehicles, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are a possibility with the sort of network coverage, data capacity, and low latency being discussed.
  • Increased sustainability. 6G should continue 5G networks’ increasing sustainability, with further improvements in automation and energy consumption reduction, and with communications service providers (CSPs) able to reuse network equipment. Of course, more-sensitive Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart sensors, allow for a myriad of environmental resource-saving measures.
  • A close to the digital divide. As networks become easier and cheaper to deploy, coverage will expand. With networks moving from hardware to software, overall costs for CSPs and end users could drop as well.

From now on, every time you think, “I wonder if [this] will be possible?” ask yourself if “this” is on the 6G potential list. It’s a lot to look forward to, isn’t it?

What Will 6G Networks Mean for CSPs?

  • A global 6G market of $1.04 billion in 2028 and $40.99 billion by 2032
  • The convergence of virtual and physical spaces, possibly enabling new experiences and use cases as well as reducing the risks attached to operating businesses, infrastructures, and the planning of new products and services
  • Native data processing and AI in 6G networks, building on 5G Advanced AI/machine learning (ML), edge computing, network data analytics function (NWDAF), next-generation radio access network (NG-RAN), and data analytics

CSPs that want to position themselves to reap the benefits and successes of 6G technology will want to be sure their networks are developing and maturing toward 6G capability. NETSCOUT wants to continue partnering with you on your journey to 6G, and we’re here for you when you’re ready to start planning your 6G networks.

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