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6G and Beyond Wireless Technology

European Union_071820A
[European Union - ETH-Zurich]


6G: Building Tomorrow's Wireless Tech Beyond 100 GHz



The Vision of the 6G System


As 5G research is maturing towards a global standard, the research community must focus on the development of beyond-5G solutions and 2030 era, i.e. 6G. It is not clear yet what 6G will entail. It will include relevant technologies considered too immature for 5G or which are outside the defined scope of 5G. More specifically, the way in which data are collected, processed, transmitted and consumed within the wireless network will be a key driver for 6G.

It will take at least 10 years to have the rolling out of the first 6G systems (by 2030) and 5G will keep growing for a few more years after that (ETSI estimated a few years ago the peak in adoption for 5G around 2040), as it is now happening with 4G that is expected to grow for a few more years, at least till 2025. 

Actually, 5G is just the system before 6G, not the end of the line in G. 5G, which has many more features than 4G, has already started to deploy worldwide in 2020. The 6G system, with the full support of artificial intelligence is expected to be deployed between 2027 and 2030. In beyond 5G, there are some fundamental issues, which need to be addressed are higher system capacity, higher data rate, lower latency, and improved quality of service (QoS) compared to 5G system. 

Just as the jump from 4G to 5G represents an expansion of spectrums used and introduction of new frequencies, so will the evolution between 5G and 6G communications. Whereas 5G leverages mmWave in the microwave frequency range, 6G will take advantage of even smaller wavelengths at the Terahertz (THz) band, which is typically referred to as 100 GHz to 3 THz.

By exploring the capabilities of wireless signals in the largely unused range above 100 gigahertz - or the proposed 6G spectrum - can enable applications outside the classical definition of communications. The tiny signals at this range, referred to as millimeter waves, or mmWaves, can allow for imaging, mapping, localization and higher data-rate communications to connect multiple devices and even applications that haven’t yet been invented.

The vision of future 6G wireless system, network architecture, and its emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, terahertz communications, optical wireless technology, free space optic network, blockchain, threedimensional networking, quantum communications, unmanned aerial vehicle, cell-free communications, integration of wireless information and energy transfer, integration of sensing and communication, integration of access-backhaul networks, dynamic network slicing, holographic beamforming, and big data analytics that can assist the 6G architecture development in guaranteeing the QoS. 


New Spectrum and Frequencies and New Challenges with 6G


- New Challenges with 6G

Just as there have been, and will continue to be, many challenges with 5G, so will there be many new challenges with 6G.  One of those challenges will be developing commercial transceivers at the to-be utilized THz frequencies. This is largely an area in which electronics component providers will need to innovate. For example, semiconductor providers will need to deal with extremely small wavelengths and correspondingly small physical size of RF transistors and how they will interwork with element spacing of THz antenna arrays.


- Potential New Applications

Features of the 6G spectrum will make for some interesting applications and multiplicative effects. Potential applications for Terahertz spectrum include sensing, imagine, wireless cognition, For example:

  • Wireless cognition: Robotic control and drone fleet control;
  • Sensing: Air quality detection, personal health monitoring, gesture detection and touchless smartphones, explosive detection and gas sensing;
  • Imaging: See in the dark, HD resolution video radar, Terahertz security body scanning;
  • Communication: Wireless fiber backhaul, intra-device radio communication, connectivity in data centers, information shower;
  • Centimeter-level positioning.


The Future of Global Satellite Broadband Networks


6G is expected to integrate with satellites. Integrating terrestrial, satellite, and airborne networks into a single wireless system will be crucial for 6G. 

Orbital broadband networks will need large constellations of small satellites to relay transmissions effectively and at lower power consumption than today’s larger satellites. This is where the technologies of wireless transmission absorption and refraction – known as frequency selective surfaces (FSS) – come to play a major role in increasing efficiency over any previous satellite wireless technology. 

FSS are used in Earth observation satellites to separate signals, which are collected by single reflector antennas. For these, FSS provide broadband remote sensing capability by enabling the instrument to work over a large frequency bandwidth. So, one instrument replaces many that were required in the past, thus reducing the footprint of each satellite (useful for nanosatellites) or [packing] more equipment onto a larger platform. FSS are an optimal solution to be used for future satellite broadband communications systems.




[More to come ...]

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