Prediction For The Upcoming Year 2024 On 6G

Prediction For The Upcoming Year 2024 On 6G

By Roger Nichols, 6G Program Manager, Keysight Technologies 

Why Some Versions of AI is not the key to Optimizing 6G Networks

AI has a large role to play in helping optimize 6G. However, it will not be the much-hyped generative AI that relies on large language models and vast data sets. Instead, domain-specific data combined with the power of AI models and wireless domain expertise that will help solve specific industry problems. For example, AI algorithms will make improvements in the air interface, helping optimize the 6G system. Other use cases include advancing how to manage mobility during handovers, cell-site planning, and optimizing MIMO. But, before AI can add value to the development of 6G, it needs to be more reliable, explainable, and much less expensive.

Skills Silo Throttles Integration of AI in 6G

Domain knowledge and AI expertise are vital to successfully integrate AI into 6G networks. Today, we have either wireless experts or AI specialists, but too few heads that share expertise in both domains. Until these skill sets are blended, it will be tough to find the right resources to deploy AI effectively in support of 6G goals. This workforce capability gap will take over a decade to resolve.

5G Still a Work in Progress

As the end of 2023, there are fewer than 50 commercial standalone 5G networks in the world. Over the next few years, the pace of transition from non-standalone to standalone networks will accelerate as these architectures support a fully programmable 5G network, enabling operators to build services beyond enhanced mobile broadband. The expansion of standalone networks should pick up, as will the use of network slicing and working out the defects and performance challenges. In addition, the 5G ecosystem will grow in order to support capabilities in a broader range of industries beyond gaming and social media activities. This will lay the groundwork for 6G to be utilized across a wide set of use cases. 

Mobile Gaming Turns FR2 from Dormant to Dominant

The wireless industry is exploring the acquisition of new spectrum between seven and 24 GHz. However, FR2 (millimeter-wave, 24-52GHz) is already available and many cases allocated, but it's too expensive to support current use cases. RF2 will require new mobile gaming/VR applications to drive the economy of scale to overcome this hurdle. Interest from Gen Z and Gen Alpha in the new consumer applications played on a VR/AR device rather than a traditional smartphone will drive a surge in the demand for higher bandwidth and capacity with a low-stakes use model. Current networks will be unable to support this, and operators will turn to FR2 to support the demand at this scale. Once this milestone occurs, the downward pressure on costs will help applications outside the entertainment and advertising realm will utilize FR2.

Mobile Sub-Terahertz Radio Systems Will Not to Come to Fruition Anytime Soon 

Mobile sub-Terahertz (THz) radio systems are at least a decade away. They are not feasible from a mobility standpoint due to immature mobile technology and the associated costs-this is not to mention power consumption and data-management. This industry’s struggles with RF2 are evidence that mobile sub-THz radio systems will not be viable in the near future. 

6G is Not Going to Overhaul the Core Network

6G will not result in a major overhaul of the core network. It will evolve, but a significant revamp, as happened with network functions in the transition from 4G to 5G, will not occur. The majority of the wireless industry now accepts that this would be a mistake.

Spectrum Smorgasbord: Huge Challenge for Wireless Industry 

Over the next five years, the global wireless industry will have to support and manage 2G, 4G, 5G, and 6G networks. This carries significant technical and business  challenges. With more than a fifth of the world's population still relying on 2G, developing regions like Africa and most of Asia will not sunset many legacy networks before the end of the decade. However, India is bucking this trend and has country-wide coverage with 5G standalone networks, making it the largest country in these best position to retire 2G. The only constraint that could slow this shift is the affordability of new devices.

India From Wireless Laggard to 6G Leader

India has become a nation of data guzzlers and is the global leader in per-device monthly data consumption. This is driving the demand for more bandwidth and capacity. After being late to adopt 4G, but accelerating 5G in the past 12 months, the country is emphasizing and championing national objectives for 6G and is looking to help shape and drive the rollout. India has launched multiple 6G research initiatives in 2023. They will be a leading voice in establishing 6G standards and ensuring it is fit for purpose for countries with large rural populations.

Metaverse: More Than an Entertainment Destination

Despite most discussions of the metaverse focusing on gaming, it will evolve to support much broader use cases than those laid out by Meta. By the end of the decade, augmented and virtual reality will be part of our daily lives, and 6G will be pivotal in providing the bandwidth and connectivity to support these synthetic environments and facilitate seamless interactions between the virtual and physical worlds.

By Sarah LaSelva 6G, Director of 6G at Keysight   

Regulation on the Radar

In 2024, regulation will be on the agenda as the industry looks to provide a framework so that the entire ecosystem, including companies, operators, and countries, can work in unison. Due to the complexity involved, particularly at the geopolitical level, this will take several years to resolve. 

AI is everyone's BFF, including 6G 

The combination of complexity and massive amounts of data makes wireless networks ripe for AI optimization. The technology has started to be integrated and in 2024, this will accelerate. A key part of the process will be understanding where AI can help and, crucially, where it's not the answer and may hinder the rollout of 6G. 

AI + 6G: A Measured Approach

Unlike other sectors, the wireless industry will take a more measured approach to integrating AI. Operators will focus on thoroughly training the machine learning models on diverse data sets, quantifying the impact, and putting in place a new test methodology. As AI adoption matures, it will transform the wireless industry over the next decade, unleashing new capabilities such as improved beam management and smart spectrum sharing.

The Drive to Net Zero

With sustainability concerns growing around wireless networks, AI will play a pivotal role in helping reduce the environmental impact of 6G. For example, the technology can determine how to optimize power consumption by turning on and off components based on real-time operating conditions. 

As 6G networks roll out and more devices and machines become wirelessly connected, it will create an opportunity to optimize operations and reduce the carbon footprint. For example, 6G will help autonomous vehicles become more advanced, which will reduce traffic and some of the waste and inefficiencies associated with human-led driving. In farming, IoT devices connected to 6G will monitor soil conditions and help optimize water and fertilizer use. Once 6G becomes ubiquitous, it will usher in a new era of sustainability-driven operations.

The industry will look to standardize sustainability measurements in 2024, including measuring the total carbon footprint of a wireless network. This will help avoid greenwashing claims and accelerate the drive to net zero.  

Spectrum Sharing Log Jam on the Horizon

6G will leverage many different bands and tools to meet the growing demands and expectations for cellular communications. The most challenging technical aspect is how to share spectrum. For example, in 6G, the upper mid-band (7-24 GHz) is already used by civilians and governments for meteorology, radio astronomy, and maritime radio navigation. Once wireless access is added, it will necessitate learning how to be good frequency citizens. In 2024, there will be a lot of research in this area to find a pathway forward.

Global Spectrum Harmonization on the Radar for 6G

The World Radio Conference in late 2023 will determine the available frequency bands that 6G will use and put in place a plan to make global spectrum harmonization a reality. This will enable operators to realize economy of scale for components and limit the number of bands to support.

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