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    Scratching the 6G Surface

    “We can imagine completely autonomous systems; or multi-sensory extended reality which integrates the five traditional human senses with the digital world; or real-time remote telesurgery; or complete virtual shopping malls,’ says the Senior Lecturer in the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications. In the next 10 years, we can expect massive changes and new technologies coming into our lives which will require more and more connectivity at higher speeds as we transfer more and more data, “she further adds.

    All this must sound like it is straight out of science fiction, but unequivocally it is not. This is just, what would be one of the many dimensions of 6G. While we are still behind the complete deployment of 5G globally, researchers around the world are already laying the foundation for the next generation of wireless communications, 6G.

    Compared to 5G, the 6G network will increase data rates by over 100 times, to one terabyte per second or more, enabling the inclusion of edge intelligent devices and computing.  6G is the sixth generation of wireless communications technologies where signals will be transmitted at a frequency band much higher than is currently widely utilized.

    The current 5G standard (including 5G evolution) covers frequency bands between approximately 0.4 GHz and 114 GHz and can deliver data transfer speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second.

    However, with increased global communication and more and more applications requiring fast and reliable delivery of information, there is an ever-greater need for increased bandwidth.  This sits in a “gap” on the electromagnetic spectrum between existing radio waves and infrared light, where such radiation could not be generated until just a few decades ago.

    It is therefore a very empty space on the spectrum, which is subsequently ideal for future communication technologies which will require high bandwidth and fast speeds. The biggest and most obvious benefit of 6G is the potential speed of data transfer, given the increased bandwidth that would be made available.

    While 5G offers speeds up to 10 gigabytes per second, research suggests 6G would enable transfer speeds of around 1024 gigabytes per second, which is equal to 1 terabyte per second.

    So 6G promises to speed up to 100 times faster than current standards, and some say it will be much quicker even than that.

    The increased bandwidth also means much more information can be transferred at any given moment, which allows new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and remote telesurgery to become more and more feasible. The amount of data such applications require makes them technically more difficult to develop given the current 5G standards.

    We can expect many more physical objects to feature sensors, processors and software that connect them to the Internet of Things, so they can exchange data with other devices and systems.

    Aside from telecommunications, another benefit of starting to generate signals in the terahertz frequency range is related to security and imaging—as an alternative to X-ray scanners.

    Terahertz signals are able to pass through ceramics, plastic textiles and paper which make it ideal for security screening, especially since other organic materials, such as explosives and certain illicit drugs, have high absorption peaks in terahertz radiation and therefore give off a distinctive “fingerprint.” Therefore, it is possible to detect whether a sealed envelope or package contains illegal substances even without opening it—just by scanning with terahertz radiation.

    In addition, the photon energy of radiation at terahertz frequencies is very low, which makes it a safe alternative for medical scanning purposes to X-rays which are ionizing and can damage living tissue and DNA.

    Cognitive Information Transmission: Compared to traditional communications, the 6G network would significantly reduce redundant transmissions and better ensure semantic meanings are mined, extracted, and sent.

    Almost every industry will benefit from quicker information transfer, with 6G in the terahertz frequency range promising latency—that is the time delay before a transfer of data begins—of just microseconds.

    A key development is expected to be in real-time telesurgery where low latency is vital, as well as other healthcare processes such as patient monitoring, and real-time analysis of MRI and CT scans.

    The availability of autonomous vehicles is also likely to increase as 6G makes it quicker and easier to deal with all the information being collected from various sensors and radars, which need to be transferred very rapidly to ensure a high level of safety.

    In some cases, the attenuation of high-frequency signals could actually be a benefit.

    Near-field communication where sensitive and private data is being transferred becomes more secure when signals are more localized, while battlefield communications could take advantage of the fact that information cannot travel long distances and be picked up by the enemy.

    Experimental 6G trials begin with NEC, DOCOMO AND NTT

    NEC Corporation is collaborating with NTT DOCOMO and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) on sixth-generation mobile communication system experimental trials.

    The company says 6G will require dramatic advances in communications technology to achieve 10 to 100 times higher speeds and capacities than the 5th generation mobile communication system (5G).

    It says 6G will require ultra-low power consumption of 1/100 and coverage that reaches from the ocean’s depths to the heights of outer space.

    NEC says it will work with DOCOMO and NTT on a distributed Multi Input Multi Output (MIMO) technology. It is expected to increase the stability of communication even in a high-frequency band, which is highly linear and susceptible to shielding material, and it is promising for using the high-frequency bands of 6G.

    The company says it also wants to work on OAM multiplex transmission technology, which looks at increasing the number of data signals to be transmitted simultaneously.

    NEC says this is achieved by placing a signal on a plurality of radio waves having different orbital angular momentum states (OAM mode) and transmitting them wirelessly. It says combining conventional polarisation multiplexing methods can reach even higher frequency utilisation efficiency and larger capacity.

    The company says using millimetre waves and sub terahertz waves is desired to expand the transmission distance.

    Mayank Vashisht | Sub Editor | ELE Times

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