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Intel's top researcher wants 6G to focus on network resiliency

As a Fellow with Intel Labs, Shilpa Talwar is a member of an exclusive club that includes only the most influential technical minds at Intel. Talwar leads a research team that specifically works on wireless systems and advanced network topologies and has been involved in wireless research for many network evolutions – dating all the way back to the 2G era.

It's no surprise that when it comes to 6G development, Talwar and her team are intricately involved in shaping Intel's vision of 6G. And what does that vision entail? Talwar says that she expects new 6G services will revolve around telemedicine, remote education and autonomous driving. But for those types of applications to work, 6G will need to have two things: ubiquitous connectivity and network resiliency.

Second class

And while ubiquitous connectivity is a term that was often associated with 5G, Talwar says that both ubiquitous connectivity and network resiliency have not been a top priority with 5G. But she hopes that will change with 6G.

"Ubiquitous connectivity – we've been talking about that for a long time. But that, along with network reliability, have been second class," Talwar said. "We believe we will see network resiliency become a primary driver with 6G."

Part of the challenge of providing network resiliency is that wireless networks are typically spread across large geographies and there are many points where the network can fail or become vulnerable to attacks. However, to provide services such as telemedicine or autonomous driving, these networks have to be resistant to attacks and service disruptions. And the only way to ensure that is by creating a distributed network that can operate without human intervention even during disruptions.

Talwar said that with 5G, the focus has really been on enhanced mobile broadband connectivity and low latency. And while ultra-reliable low latency (URLLC) is included in 3GPP Release 17, which is currently in progress, Talwar expects that work will continue in future releases as well. "It is a nice vision but I think that what we did was adapt the existing air interface and protocols to meet the requirements for these new classes," Talwar said. "Reliability and resiliency never took focus with 5G but it will with 6G."

To make a wireless network more resilient and reliable, however, will require a flexible network topology and a very dense network topology. That's why Talwar said it is important to design integrated access backhaul that allows operators to put a small cell anywhere and get access on demand. However, this type of network design also makes the network more complex because it will require more network management. "The problem with small cells and all these technologies is the installation and operation of them," she said. "We need the intelligence to be in the network management piece. There's been some work on that but I think there needs to be a lot more to make the network management more autonomous."

Accelerating research

Much of the wireless industry is eying the timeline for 6G to be around 2030 because that is when 6G standards are expected to be ready. With that in mind, Intel in April announced its partnership with the National Science Foundation to form the Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation Systems (RINGS) program to accelerate research in areas such as network resiliency.

Federal agencies like the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are a part of RINGS as are other tech companies such as Apple, Ericsson, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm and VMware.

The group is soliciting proposals, which are due July 15. The proposals must incorporate advanced radio technologies, spectrum allocation, edge/cloud computing, cognitive networks, microservices and artificial intelligence/machine learning. RINGs will fund 36 to 48 of those proposals for up to three years.

Intel, and Talwar, hope that the RINGS program will help call attention to the importance of network resiliency and ubiquitous connectivity so that it doesn't take the backseat with 6G that it did with 5G.

— Sue Marek, special to Light Reading. Follow her @suemarek.

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