Forthcoming 6G technology could have the power to connect the digital and physical worlds through predictive data, experts say.
The next leap in cellular connectivity is considered a step up from previous generations, where 4G increased access to mobile data and 5G spurred industrial applications of mobile technology.
“I think what we’re seeing with 6G, in general, is much more of a qualitative approach,” said Mike Nawrocki, managing director of Next G Alliance. “In a sense, [we are] trying to create a vision of how we would use a marketplace [with] game-changing analytic applications.”
The new technology — which is currently in development — was discussed during Toronto’s annual Global Forum called Redefining A New Prosperity.
Panellists talked about lessons learned from the 5G rollout but zoned in on the rise of 6G coalitions.
Mikko Uusitalo, co-ordinator for Hexa-X, the European 6G Flagship program researching and developing 6G technology, said it could be used for preventive health-care software with the ability to predict heart attacks before they occur and call for help.
Uusitalo noted the need for cellular generations to have devices that work together, which is something different groups working on the technology could achieve if they collaborate early.
If coalitions are formed successfully, the data can be applied globally, said Uusitalo.
“It is beneficial for all globally, in the long run, to work together,” he said. “All of these different parts of the technology need to work together so you need to standardize these.”
Nawrocki said he sees the importance of predictive data in potential 6G technologies, noting it could unlock new applications to support health care and public safety, among other sectors.
He said coalitions could help develop 6G technology from a research phase and bring it to a realization phase.
This would be where co-operation could determine research priorities, technological development, manufacturing, industry standards and, ultimately, the commercialization of 6G.
During the development cycle of 5G, many of those processes were done independently, which Nawrocki speculated to be why 5G was delayed.
Magnus Frodigh, vice-president and head of Ericsson Research, said one of the lessons researchers and developers learned when making the transition from 4G to 5G was to include the ability for devices to access both technologies.
If needed, he explained, a device could hypothetically connect to 5G if 6G wasn’t available in that area.
However, when 5G was initially rolled out, it focused on low latency and high reliability, said Frodigh. “We didn’t really get the robustness on this,” Frodigh said, noting there is a gap between 5G and 6G due to the lack of robust software. “Perhaps 6G needs to be designed in order to be even more robust and resilient.”
Other lessons from the 5G transition relate to concerns around privacy, security and trust, said Matti Latva-aho, director of the 6G Flagship program and a professor at the University of Oulu in Finland.
He said the riots against 5G technology in Europe last year may have stemmed from a lack of trust or manipulation. Some people incorrectly feared the health hazards associated with 5G technology, said Latva-aho.
“We as the development and research community should be more forward-looking when developing 6G to educate the public,” Latva-aho said. “There shouldn’t be any health risks and things like that.”
Nawrocki said governments could play a role in getting 6G off the ground, involving working with the private sector to incentivize the industry.
However, Uusitalo said regulations should have a key role in implementing 6G technology and that governments could support the relationship between academia and the industry.
Like the 5G rollout, there will be regional competition around 6G, but there is more collaboration and foresight for the 6G rollout, Nawrocki said.
Also discussed was the potential impact 6G could have on climate change.
Nawrocki noted the information and communication technology business might not be the biggest contributor to climate change compared to other industries.
However, it should still take a leadership role in sustainability because 6G could help other industries strive to achieve sustainability goals.