Discussion Papers

No. 479: The basic principles of 6G

Authors: Dajan Baischew, Ahmed Elbanna, Stefano Lucidi, Bernd Sörries, Thomas Plückebaum

(full version only available in German)

Summary

The expectation is that the future 6G cellular standard will usher in a new era over the next decade, with billions of things and people generating and communicating a vast amount of digital information.

The rollout of 6G envisaged for 2030 will address more sophisticated applications than previous mobile standards, e.g. holographic communication and the "Internet of Senses". The planned use of subterahertz and terahertz frequencies will also enable new application areas for sensing, imaging and positioning and even turn the wireless network itself into a sensor. Supported by artificial intelligence, 6G networks will be self-learning and able to act contextually. Smart antennas and edge computing, migrating to far-edge computing, already used in 5G mobile networks, will play an even greater role in future standardisations of 6G networks. The trend of Open RAN and cloudification will continue with 6G. In this context, it is expected that more chip manufacturers, cloud providers, space companies and other market players will enter the mobile communications market as partners and competitors of traditional mobile communications equipment vendors.

Critical drivers behind 6G are so-called megatrends, i.e. trends that will be particularly relevant for the coming decade, such as a growing global population, climate change, environmental pollution or global competition for resources. 6G research groups believe that connectivity is key to address the associated challenges. They believe that mobile communications can make a significant contribution to achieving the UN 2030 Agenda goals by providing infrastructure and access to digital services, which in turn lead to growth, increased efficiency and sustainability. Therefore regulatory aspects, digital sovereignty and security, as well as energy and environmental aspects will play an equally important role in the development of the new mobile communications standard besides high performance and new applications areas.

To enable sustainable progress for society, it is crucial that 6G technology meets societal needs while providing new capabilities. The following study provides an overview of recently initiated 6G research activities in Europe and the world.

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