6G is just around the corner… a decade away. But it is already in preliminary tests and the Japanese Network Research department under the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) has announced the “first successful transmission of 1 petabit per second in a standard cladding multicore fiber».
5G still has years of deployment left, but the technology industry does not rest and the 6G looms on the horizon for the next decade. Japan’s leading mobile telecommunications operator, NTT DOCOMO; its parent company NTT; Japanese telecommunications equipment manufacturers NEC and Fujitsu; and the Finnish manufacturer of telecommunications equipment Nokia, are in the task of the first experimental tests with the next generation of mobile networks.
6G on the horizon
If the forecasts are fulfilled, the performance of 6G will be really impressive, with the forecast that data transmission will be 100,000 times higher than the theoretical maximum of 5G. And as they explain, with part of the existing infrastructure: “A big step towards realizing ultra-high-performance optical links with standard cladding diameter fibers compatible with existing cabling technologies for near-term adoption.”
Remember that a petabit is equal to a quadrillion bits of data or a million gigabits. Putting the data in context, one petabit per second would be equivalent to 10 million channels streaming at 8K per second. An unimaginable speed that we assume will be reduced in the real world, but that is still science fiction. There are multiple challenges to achieving all of this and it will require a number of new technologies, new high-frequency bands above 100 GHz, and expanded communications coverage.
The technology companies involved have shared the task and Nokia will provide the 6G AI-native air interface (the access mode or link between two stations in wireless communications). NEC and Fujitsu will provide MIMO equipment responsible for increase the capacity of a communications network by simultaneously transmitting signals and separating signals received by multiple antennas.
It is expected that the machine learning and artificial intelligence play a decisive role in the development of all phases of 6G networks, covering design, implementation and operations. As the network evolves to support flexible, programmable cloud-native deployments, network automation will be crucial in simplifying the management and optimization of networks that will become “cognitive” in the sense that things like network placement Virtualized network functions, partitioning, quality of service, mobility management, radio resource management, and spectrum sharing will rely on AI to varying degrees.
It sounds like science fiction, but 6G is already underway. DOCOMO and NTT plan to start indoor testing in 2023 and outdoor testing the following year. The new generation of mobile networks is expected to be deployed from 2030.