Ericsson Vice President and Head of Global Research, Magnus Frodigh, predicts that 6G will be the key enabler for connecting the virtual world to the physical world, with applications such as smart cities. In a journey that should culminate with the start of the migration of mobile networks, from 5G to 6G, in 2030: “I really believe that we are getting closer and closer to this vision”, said the executive.
During the opening of the Smartness research center at Uniamp last Monday, the 6th, Frodigh spoke to Mobile Time about the sixth generation of mobile internet, the advances from 5G to the next “G”, but also about Ericsson’s plans in research and the dangers. having two 6G standards due to the trade dispute between the United States and China.
Mobile Time – Where are we today with 6G?
Magnus Frodigh 🇧🇷 When we talk about new (network) technologies, there are always many things that need to be invented and matured. And that’s why we have it in ten-year cycles. It’s hard to do it faster than a decade because you don’t have enough technological development to evolve. More space (time) is needed for this and a lot of research and pre-development work is needed to mature the technologies that we would like to enter 6G. Therefore, the timeline set by the ITU for commercial launch is approximately 2030. Eight to ten years. We are currently in the research phase.
How is the road from 5G to 6G?
I believe that many of these technologies that will come to 6G can be built on top of 5G and when we get to 2030 they will scale. And as we scale, we will see that there will be more need for RAN changes, more capacity, higher data speeds. And at the same time it will depend on reliability, elasticity and durability. So there’s a lot to do from a technical point of view now that we hope to meet the requirements within the time frame of 2030. So it’s not as simple as we hope because we’re still looking.
One of the promised advancements for 6G is sharding 2.0 networks. How will this technology work, given that companies are starting to experiment with version 1.0 which is in IEEE Release 16?
We are preparing to offer this cut for different applications to have different quality of service and operators will be able to manage different network environments. This is what happens with (first generation) network slicing today. It is ready and we expect to see more presence of this technology in the market. Now, the second generation will have a more advanced configuration. In practice, we can expect not only different qualities of service, but also different levels of security, stability and reliability. Perhaps, we will see more mobilization of computing capacity in networks and cognitive artificial intelligence. Today, you write about applications over the top (OTT), a computer with the application on one side and the device accessing it on the other, with the network making the connection. But to get really low latency, you need to move the application much closer to the edge or have the application at the edge of the network. So yes, network sharing 2.0 will bring more advanced network sharing and will be a very important point in our research.
When we reach 6G in 2030, what will be the leading technology in the first hour? HE? Liquid networks? Cognitive architectures? Edge to provide mass transfer of data and computing from one end to another?
We will see a number of technologies that can play this role in the sixth generation. In 5G, we have seen very strong progress in Massive MIMO. It is a technology that allows you to increase the capacity of the network, even if all the access points are close. So this is the core technology of 5G. In 6G we would like to have a much denser sensor network. That’s why we’re working on zero-energy, zero-cost sensors. So you can have 100 sensors in one indoor unit. All produced with cell in origin. Therefore, in their life cycle, sensors will be able to interact and provide information from the physical to the digital world. This is the key (for 6G). And I believe that network architecture and how we can make it more programmable and adaptable will allow us to configure devices and networks without having to standardize everything. This means, a manager will be able to program the network more easily and this will significantly speed up the launch of a network. This is another key technology, even more so when combined with cognitive properties. And we need to understand how to integrate the computer and the network. These two technologies really need to work together as it is the convergence of computing and networking that will bring the high performance experience to networks.
In applications, how do you imagine this evolution will be in 6G?
It is something that will happen gradually. Currently, OTT players are building their own networks or bringing their computing infrastructure more and more to the fore. Earlier, OTTs had a data center in the village, others tried to set up data centers in big cities. But they can go a little further with this. For this, it is necessary to pass the connection between computers and networks. They need places that have connectivity and computing. I think this is interesting as we will see how the network capabilities and sensor information will work. In particular, information can be exposed at the RAN, network core and application layer. That’s why Ericsson bought Vonage, a company that works with this protection. Today, we are interested in applications turning more to advanced APIs. Basically, today the user sends SMS securely.
But clearly, if there is a richer API, the client can do more advanced tasks. In this scenario, OTTs can be interoperable and can work independently of the operator and the network devices they are on – but if it is an Ericsson network, they will work better. And this creates a huge ecosystem for developers and companies. So we can compare and say that it would be a platform for industry as Android was for smartphones.
How is the power consumption in this scenario?
Even with data consumption growth multiplied by 100, ICT CO2 consumption is less than 1.5% worldwide. This is because we break this curve bit by bit. We saw operators replacing fossil energy with solar energy and starting to be efficient in grid consumption [como o 5G]🇧🇷 So if the industry continues to deploy more green energy, we will continue to reduce. The solution may be to combine and co-optimize connectivity and green energy advantage computing. But that is not the focus of the center we are opening today (this Monday, the 5th). However, I believe that this issue will evolve and become central. That is, the research we will perform will have the largest reduction in fossil energy in the coming years, as energy is becoming expensive and operators will do their best to conserve.
Yes. It’s something we’ve seen impact operations on, especially in Europe with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yes. It’s a big shift in focus. And energy will guide this. We (Ericsson) deliver more energy efficiency in networks because our customers (operators and companies) are demanding it. We had a lot of technology in the past that was not required by the market, but now the market is asking for it and we are giving it. So CO2 reduction in 6G networks will be one of the key properties.
How do you deal with the possibility of having two 6G standards due to the geopolitical divide between East and West?
Our goal is to have a single 6G, as there are many advantages if you have (production) scale. And the fragmentation of the market means that it will be divided into multiple research and development budgets. But, of course, we (Ericsson) are following the script and will follow what is required. So if we have two models, we will make two. But this is not something black and white. For example, I think it can be fragmented, but there can also be common parts, especially when it comes to chipsets to have mass terminal production. I believe there may be benefits if we have the same hardware, but it will be slightly different in software. But we are working to make the route as unique as possible. And even other players are also working towards a single 6G system.
Laboratory at Uniamp
Bringing in the launch you’re doing at Uniamp that will generate 6G research: initially there are no other operators or players in the market, just the gym. Want to bring companies to Smartness?
Yes. This is the next step. Now, we are preparing to open the center. To solve all the bureaucratic part and contracts. But after that we want to bring partners. We believe that the more the merrier. Having our customers and operators will be a very interesting road.
Is there a conversation with them?
At the moment, I don’t know. I believe they should start in about a year. We want them and their customers to be involved, like factories and big companies. As well as regulatory bodies, which can collaborate to understand how these technologies will be regulated. So there’s a big invitation for the ecosystem to join us.
What is the importance of doing this work with academia and especially in this center with Unicamp, UFSCAR, USP and Fapesp?
I believe that the work we do with universities, in a broad sense, is to understand the open questions we have while encouraging research in areas that are of interest to us. It’s something we do in Brazil (20 years ago). They take these open-ended questions and do aspirational research. These inputs can be used in standardization, ecosystem, research and product development. But to say which part of the innovation in particular will come from here, I don’t know yet. That’s why we do the research. If we knew exactly what we wanted, there would be no point in looking. That’s why I say: we are more anxious about the ideas that come.