China's Boffins Set Out Their 6G Vision

It's customary that as a new mobile technology rolls out, a few boffins start work on the next generation, ignored by everyone else.

Well, that's not the case for 6G.

With 5G a bone of geopolitical contention, the road to 6G is likely to capture a good deal of attention.

So let's see what a group of Chinese researchers had to say at a seminar organized by China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI) in Beijing last week.

This isn't the first 6G event -- that honor appears to have gone to Finland's University of Oulu, which held a workshop in March that resulted in this white paper.

But this is the first significant 6G forum in China, home to the world's biggest 5G rollout, and suggests an intent to make an even bigger mark on the next generation of mobile than it has on this one.

The event attracted more than 200 people, with speakers from China's biggest AI "unicorn" SenseTime, AR company HiScene, VR firm Dgene, Peking University and smartphone-maker Xiaomi, according to local media reports.

Liu Guangyi, chief researcher at China Mobile Research Institute, said that while 5G would bring the Internet of everything, 6G would achieve convergence of the real and virtual worlds.

He introduced the concept of the "digital twin" -- the notion that every object and person in the real world will have a proxy in the virtual world.

"Human beings will be able to simulate the operation of the physical world in the virtual one and thus can make an early judgement and if necessary take action."

But this comes with the qualifier that "what happens in the virtual world can directly affect the physical world and even affect and touch the behavior in the physical world."

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Liu said 6G would also include holographic communication, smart industrial production and a tactile Internet that would include taste and touch.

Among other things, he thinks 6G might enable brain-computer interface and nano-robots that would track and monitor body organs.

The network to support these capabilities would need latency below 1 millisecond and deliver 10-100 times the speed and bandwidth of 5G -- that would be 1 Tbit/s and above.

According to Liu, it would be a "minimalist network" that can be rapidly deployed. It would also support plug-and-play technology and be highly scalable and flexible.

In addition, it would be automated -- "self-generating, self-governing and self-evolving" -- and able to acquire new functions and versions without manual input.

It would also be AI-driven, containing "AI functions, protocols and signaling" that will enable zero-touch operation and maintenance.

Lastly, it would take advantage of big data and AI to create an "intelligent defense."

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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