As 5G networks and devices continue to roll out across the globe, small groups of researchers have already started working to envision what 6G will look like, and now two of the leading industry forces are coming together. Keysight Technologies has joined the 6G Flagship group, an initiative led by Finland’s University of Oulu to advance wireless technologies beyond 5G.
The 6G Flagship group currently includes experts from universities in Australia, China, Europe, and the United States, collectively focused on standardizing communications technologies that offer “near-instant, unlimited wireless connectivity” — though the group is still working out how carriers will practically achieve this goal. As was the case with the 4G to 5G transition, the group is planning for a massive expansion of bandwidth, this time on the order of 1000 times 5G’s capacity, in large part by developing technologies that use “tremendously high frequency” radio spectrum that’s beyond 5G’s reach.
Last fall, Keysight helped kickstart early 6G research work in the United States by making the largest donation in NYU Wireless’ history — cutting-edge equipment that generates and analyzes up to 110GHz frequencies above the transmission capabilities of today’s 24-48GHz millimeter wave cellular devices. Researchers currently expect that frequencies in the “submillimeter wave” range — from 300GHz to 3THz — will power 6G networks around the year 2030, and 7G networks thereafter.
“We’re excited to join the 6G Flagship Program as one of its founding members to begin groundbreaking 6G research,” said Keysight SVP Satish Dhanasekaran. “As the only test and measurement provider invited to take part [in] the program, Keysight is showcasing the unique role we play in solving design challenges ahead of a technology wave.”
Keysight expects to help the group support 5G adoption while developing fundamental 6G-enabling technologies, including AI and “intelligent UX,” though 6G Flagship’s experts don’t yet agree on the role AI will actually play in future networks. An interview on the group’s website revealed some skepticism regarding AI hype, suggesting it’s largely being used as a marketing term to “lure in new researchers and new students,” though there’s some consensus that AI will become useful in discrete 6G network-specific tasks.
Early 6G research and even 6G chips are already underway at schools such as NYU and the University of California, Irvine. The NYU team has suggested that 6G will enable wireless, real-time remote access to human brain-level AI computing, such that a low-powered drone will be remotely controllable by a human-caliber server. Chips and antennas will be “extremely small,” enabling 6G devices to become tiny, though actually distributing short-distance submillimeter wave signals to them is expected to be a challenge.