In the world of telecommunications, it is all about 5G right now but just around the corner is the revolutionizing 6G standard which is currently being developed. It is being called the 6G era and is anticipated around 2030. As of now, Verizon CTO Kyle Malady followed Ericsson’s chief technology officer (CTO) Erik Ekudden by saying, “I really don’t know what the hell 6G is.” Agreeably, no one clearly does, but news has begun to fly about all the wonderful and previously unimaginable things becoming a reality with 6G like air interfaces, network speeds approaching warp-speed and the IoE or Internet of Everything.
The research on the core technologies for 6G began in Finland at the University of Oulu with a starting budget of €50 million and was followed up by Virginia Tech and companies like Samsung and LG. Although, a number of world leaders, like Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Microsoft, Samsung, Facebook, Apple, Google, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, and others, have contributed to it too. Numerous projects have been launched globally and multiple countries across the globe are setting up their own funding for this coming-of-age era of 6G. These projects have a primary focus of going beyond 5G and towards 6G.
Across the intelligently enhanced continent of Europe, the leading contributor to 6G is Nokia leading
the Hexa-X project which aims to lay the technical foundation for the wireless systems of the B5G/6G
era. The Hexa-X project includes 25 participants with a common vision of serving three worlds
a) A human world of intelligence and values;
b) a digital world of information
c) and a physical world of processes. It is being funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Another one in line is the European partnership on Smart Networks and Services (SNS), part of the Commission proposal for a Council regulation establishing the Joint Undertakings under Horizon Europe with organizers from Nextworks, Orange, Huawei, Ericsson and more. It aims to develop smart networks which focus on safeguarding European values like security and privacy while further strengthening European technological sovereignty. It is funded by the Telecom industry and the EU with a budget of the SNS JU being at least €1.8 billion for the period 2021-27. Yet another project is the 6G Flagship, part of the Finnish Flagship Programme, funded by the Academy of Finland. It has a vision for 2030 where it aims to aide companies to finalize 5G and to lay a full-stack model of all the research and innovation for 6G. Besides these, there are several other projects like RISE-6G, NEW-6G, various 6G hubs and national initiatives by countries like Germany and more.
Combining the efforts of the US and Canada is the next one on the list for 6G enthusiasts – the
NextG Alliance, an ATIS initiative setting its goal to make wireless technology greener while
advancing it across all fields of application including Aerospace, Agriculture, Defense, Education,
Healthcare, Manufacturing, Media, Energy and Transportation, all of which are vital to U.S.
interests. They allow for executive, strategic and contributing memberships at varying costs and
responsibilities but is basically a private-led project.
Another government project in North America is the Resilient & Intelligent NextG Systems (RINGS) by NSF (National Science Foundation) with an open portal to submit proposals displaying technological advances in networking, sensing and computing-application aspects. Main motive for the project is to accept and develop ideas contributing towards NextG wireless and mobile communication affecting the modern upcoming world. The US Department of Defense is among the members of the project, others including IBM, Google, Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, NSIT (National Institute of Standards and Technology), etc.
Turning to the biggest continent with a majority of contributors and innovators in almost every
aspect of life, we have our own jurisdiction to talk about. In India, the government has made an
initiative with the vision to bring about the next generation of wireless communication and realize
it sooner than in any other country. It will not be a piece of cake but the batter has been set
aside with the submission of a draft document named ‘ITU-R M. [IMT.VISION 2030 and BEYOND]’ by
TSDSI. They’ve supported their 6G vision on 4 key technology pillars, naming Ly:
1. Technologies that aid the development of a Ubiquitous Intelligent Mobile Connected Society
2. Technologies to Bridge the Digital Divide
3. Support technologies that can personalize /localize services
4. Support technologies that can mimic real-world data ownerships and hierarchies
Calling it their 6G “journey”, their strategy is to steer research in India approaching the true coming of their goals while continuously engaging with global standard bodies for harmonization of efforts including ITU WP 5D.
Taking it further, let’s list down some national 6G projects majorly contributing towards the advancement of revolutionary wireless communication technology in the coming decades:
China – MIIT, Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, Future Mobile Communication Forum
Korea – Ministry of Science and ICT, 5G Forum, ETRI (Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute)
Japan – Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, IOWN Global Forum
When everything, including autonomous cars, humans, drones and gadgets, will be all connected wirelessly, the need for smarter, more reliable, faster, and much more diverse networks is bound to rise. The question about the solution (yes, 6G!) is: how is it going to do all that it is envisioned for? As for now, it’s under debate and research.
Point of pride: The possibility and plausibility of 6G being faster, smarter, more reliable and much more energy efficient.
Since the data will only be increasing endlessly, research has led the way to use Terahertz (THz),
sub-THz, infrared and visible light bands to enable 6G and meet its stringent requirements. The core
technologies of the 6G era are Blockchain and DLT (Distributed Ledger Technologies) going
hand-in-hand with Edge AI, ML and multitudes of other technologies fused together to form one giant
‘brain’ for this decade’s prodigy, the 6G.
The enablers for 6G are listed to be:
• Intelligent Radio (IR)
• Big Data Analytics
• Intelligent Wireless Communication
• Smart surfaces
• Quantum Communication
• Efficient Energy Transfer and Harvesting
• Compressive Sensing
• Connected Robotics and Autonomous Systems
All these enablers work in coordination with each other and with a long list of other fairly vital technologies to give life to 6G. A simple fact to note is that as we proceed in our world, everything becomes human-centric, unlike the early technological advances which were machine-centric (not to blame the fascinating discoveries of humankind, but as an observation). So is the case with communications and, hence, the most crucial feature of 6G is to make it feel as natural to humans as possible. How? Let’s see.
For the most interesting feature, to deploy 6G in its full glory, there will be a smart surface spread out like a blanket over land. These will be of two kinds: large intelligent surfaces (LIS) and intelligent reflecting surfaces (IRS). The LIS is electromagnetically active in the physical environment and imposes little restrictions on how antennas spread the waves while consuming power inefficiently. Solving its inefficiency, the IRS is used in place of active antennas in the LIS. The IRS reflects the signals in an intelligent manner to improve data rate, signal quality and network coverage by controlling the incident waves’ reflection characteristics. On top of this, 6G will basically have a space-air-ground-sea integrated network (SAGSIN) which will enable global communication wirelessly ranging from 10,000 km in the sky to 20 nautical miles at sea!
Call it the engine of the whole 6G megastructure, because 6G will be a blockchain-based network that ensures auditability, transparency, data integrity and protects data’s security and privacy or control access. Built on the concept of hash trees, blockchains can hold colossal amounts of data, all the while being tamper-proof as each block is linked to another, which in turn makes it possible to verify the data back to the genesis block. Adding the magic of AI to this, a new Evolved-Proof-of-Work (E-PoW) consensus was proposed to improve the computing efficiency of 6G systems. This also ensures the decentralization and security of the classic blockchain systems as a bonus.
Talking about human-centricity, 6G devices can be expected to be capable of accurate positioning and direction sensing imitating the capability of humans to see near and far things clearly. Giving it the machine edge is the fact that 6G devices will not only take better night vision or render better images than the human eye but also see-through walls and greatly employ AR + VR or Xtended Reality (XR). There’s no saying if this is all it will be to know and develop. This is as vast a domain as we can reach.
6G is not just building over its predecessors, but improving upon it with the development of new
driving trends. Some of these would be - SSNs (Self Sustaining Networks), Millimeter-wave (mmWave)
communication, Massive and ultra-massive MIMO, and wireless brain-computer interactions. However,
using the higher part of the radio spectrum arguably decreases the amount of data that can be
carried and the range of terahertz radiation is around 10 meters, which is much too short for
significant 6G coverage. So, the signals will need to be amplified in a better way than to build
numerous 6G towers all over the place. Perhaps, by 2030, we may be able to solve this wrangle with
finesse. Or, more interestingly, find another solution to carry huge amounts of data altogether.
Currently, for 4G/5G, networks are being measured for their QoS (Quality of Service). For 6G, a new concept of quality-of-physical-experience (QoPE) measure will be needed. This is because of the fact that 6G will be a merger of the human senses with machine intelligence. It is being referred to as the “Teleportation of the Senses” by NTT DoCoMo, who talks about 6G making it, “possible for cyberspace to support human thought and action in real-time through wearable devices and micro-devices mounted on the human body.”
What can be considered an improvement over the previous developments is that networks were moving towards ‘softwarization’ up until 5G. With 6G, it changes slightly to become network intelligentization, which means, like 5G, 6G will have high data rates, will never be interrupted, and will be extremely reliable. Additionally, 6G, unlike 5G, will do all this with a revolution of its enablers and concepts, for example, inspire new technologies for efficient power usage, better data security, and a step ahead towards humanly machines rather than easier human-machine interactions.
There are speculations about patent development related to 6G enabling technology areas such as
terahertz technology, air-space-sea-ground integration technology, deterministic network technology,
and AI-based air interface technology, Quantum Communication, Efficient Energy Transfer and
Harvesting, Compressive Sensing, Connected Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Smart Surface,
Intelligent Radio (IR), Big Data Analytics, Intelligent Wireless Communication etc. The era of
standardization of 6G has not yet begun, so there is no authorized way to know if a patent relates
to 6G implementation. However, considering the enabling technologies of 6G, we can assume that
certain patents will be relevant to 6G. Accordingly, we have explored various concepts like
terahertz wave/ sub millimeter wave/ sub 6g band/ Ultra high frequency blockchain/ DLT/ Distributed
ledger Technology/ Edge Computing/ IOT/ Internet of Things/ Quantum Communication/ AI/ Smart
Networks/ Autonomous system check for patents that disclose the concept of using 6G enablers with
mobile communication system. Below is a brief summary of a few patents as per their 6G enabling
• Terahertz Technology:
a) US20210119496A1 mentions wireless power-based methods and systems for power transmission which includes placing a terahertz receiver device within a terahertz wireless signal search range of a terahertz transmitter device. The terahertz transmitter device and the terahertz receiver mutually detect whether a function of transmitting and receiving power through a terahertz wireless signal is available to each other. If both the terahertz transmitter device and the terahertz receiver device detect mutually availability of the function of transmitting and receiving power through a terahertz wireless signal, connection and a unique match (i.e. pairing) is performed between the terahertz transmitter device and the terahertz receiver device. When a connection and paring are successful, the terahertz transmitter device may send power to the terahertz receiver device through a terahertz wireless signal.
b) US10529003B2 mentions an optical diagnostic biomodule having tunable light source which produce terahertz emission.
• Transceivers Integrated with Frequency Band:
a) US11189922B2 mentions about a cellular system. The processor is connected with 6G transceivers and antennas. Antennas are in communication with predetermined target using 6g protocol.
• Air Interface Technology:
a) CN113259945A (from WUHAN RES INSTITUTE OF POSTS & TELECOMMUNICATIONS) mentions about an optical air interface device in a 6G network-based floodlight communication architecture which include carrying out the floodlight antenna of signal reception and sending on the air interface. The floodlight antenna includes multiple groups of floodlight radiation arrays which are used for transmitting user data signals to the floodlight terminal in a floodlight frequency band.
• Quantum Communication:
a) CN113596135A (Xiamen Tanhong Information Technology) mentions block chain system and data processing method wherein the 6g base station block chain data exchange. The blockchain data which are classical bits are converted into quantum bits and quantum encryption is carried out through a quantum intelligent contract to form a quantum key. The quantum key is distributed through a quantum channel.
• Connected Robotics and Autonomous Systems:
a) WO2021156647A1 mentions a multi-functional robotic platform for mass installation of robotic kitchens. The multi-mode operations of the robotic kitchen provide different ways to prepare food dishes and interact with the various elements of a robotic kitchen, such as the robotic effectors, other subsystems, and containers, ingredients.
Sometime soon, 6G will be well and truly upon us. Patenting activity is on the upswing and there is a silent race among corporates in terms of owning 6G implementation patents and assets. A thorough analysis of 6G technologies and patents can be very helpful for anyone willing to stay ahead in this silent race – at Expertlancing, we are more than capable of handling such tasks. For more information, please reach out to us.
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