6G: Fraunhofer Urges Early Start for for the next generation of mobile communications

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6G: Fraunhofer Urges Early Start for for the next generation of mobile communications

The starting signal for the next generation of mobile communications has been given: The next generation telecom network will be able to transmit one terabit of data, or 1000 gigabits per second. The German Fraunhofer Society for Applied Research in Europe is convinced that many areas of Industry 4.0, medicine, autonomous driving, smart cities and entertainment will benefit greatly from new 6G applications – but also warns of new challenges.

6G is the sixth generation of mobile communications. With 5G, which is currently being rolled out worldwide, data rates of up to 20 gigabits/second and a latency of around 1 millisecond are achievable.

Dr. Ivan Ndip - Frauenhofer - about 6G

Dr. Ivan Ndip, Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM

With 6G, we have the ambitious goal of achieving a terabit/second and a latency of about 100 microseconds – that is, fifty times the data rate and one-tenth the latency of 5G,

says Ivan Ndip, an expert in antennas and radio frequency systems at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin.

He explains the difference using the example of autonomous driving. The goal there, he says, is primarily to greatly reduce the number of accidents. “Autonomous driving is primarily a collective aspect,” Ndip says. “What 5G will achieve is a maximum data rate of about 20 gigabits/second. When a car is driving autonomously, it needs to communicate its position to other road users in real time, it needs to be able to measure distances and look around 360 degrees at the same time. It must also know the road very well and be able to look into the distance, but of course also very close and very precisely. This requires sensors, which we are also developing at Fraunhofer IZM: a combination of radar and camera. These sensors collect an enormous amount of data, which must be shared simultaneously. But uploads and downloads also have to take place in real time: For example, city maps are downloaded in very high resolution. 20 gigabits/second is nowhere near enough for all these processes. In addition, the cars must react reliably to unforeseen circumstances with extremely little delay autonomously. Therefore, in addition to very high data rates, very low latency is required at the same time.”

Unfortunately, he said, 5G does not allow infrastructures and networks to be built that simultaneously guarantee hundreds of gigabits/second and extremely low latency. Fraunhofer therefore does not believe that true autonomous driving will be possible with 5G.

At the same time, we don’t even know if the specifications we have today for 5G will be met,

Ndip warns. The necessary collective or networked intelligence doesn’t yet exist, he says. Nor, he adds, does 5G “allow the data rates and latency that are needed for this.” That’s why we need 6G,” the scientist states.
Ndip believes it is important that telcos and the state are already looking at 6G today, even though it is not expected to be introduced until 2030. He says there are still many unanswered questions, such as hardware development for mobile communications above 100 GHz, as it is expected that the D-band (0.11 THz to 0.17 THz) will likely be used. Never before have such frequencies been opened for mobile communications. Therefore, the research and development community would have to start much earlier to address the software and hardware issues as far as applications. Ten years before launch is typical, he said. About five years before launch, specifications would then be established – and then trials could follow. Before the public can enjoy the benefits of a new generation, there would be a lot of work to be implemented by researchers. Among other things, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has set up the Innovation Campus Electronics and Microsensors Cottbus (iCampus Cottbus) for this purpose, for example, in which Fraunhofer is conducting research on networking technologies and sensor technology of tomorrow together with the BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg and two Leibniz institutes.

Author: Tim Cole
Image Credit: Fraunhofer

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