6G

Nobody has launched a 5G network yet, but the technologists at Finland’s University of Oulu are already starting to figure out 6G.

The Academy of Finland yesterday announced the funding of “6Genesis,” an eight-year research program to conceptualize 6G under the auspices of the University of Oulu’s Centre for Wireless Communications.

Oulu, in northern Finland, is a major hub for 5G development. We profiled the city’s cluster of 5G startups and hackathons in a feature story last year.

In a paper proposing 6Genesis, director Matti Latva-aho explains “a new mobile generation appears every 10 years, and thus, 6G will emerge around 2030 to satisfy all the expectations not met with 5G, as well as new ones to be defined at a later stage.”

Watch the video below. 6Genesis’ vision for 2037 is pretty trippy. An “intelligent personal edge” is a sort of cloud-based, AI-enabled phone with a “projection interface” that also monitors your health. Your clothes monitor your health, too. Products have “on the fly configuration” and “hologram UIs.” Water bottles have live displays on them. Instead of cars, we have “mobility as a service.” And cities? Well, they have “sentient safety and comfort” based on “AI observing and catering services.”

“Vision for 2030: Our society is data-driven, enabled by near-instant, unlimited wireless connectivity,” the paper goes on to say. The new network will involve “distributed computing and intelligence, as well as materials and antennas at very high frequencies,” he says in an interview on the CWC’s website.

That means “radio oriented research towards the THz range” and “artificial intelligence inspired applications.

How 6G Surpasses 5G

With the 5G standard just recently locked down, and the first 5G networks rolling out at the end of this year, we don’t know what effect 5G will have on society. As Verizon exec Andrea Caldini pointed out at Mobile World Congress last year, 4G enabled Snapchat thanks to fast mobile upload rates. Nobody, when developing 4G, expected Snapchat.

The initial 6G study groups will be focused on exploring technologies that aren’t yet possible, but that will evolve what the industry is doing with 5G. Take those terahertz radio frequencies. To enable very high data rates and capacities, 5G pushes cellular radios up into the multi-gigahertz frequencies, also called “millimeter wave.” So it isn’t too surprising that 6Genesis will look at going even farther.

The group will also look at making policy recommendations for a high-speed, AI-enabled world. “Besides technology advances, there will be a wave of societal changes due to massive digitalization of services. This will call for novel incentive and business models in addition to telecom regulation and legislation,” Latva-aho says in the CWC interview.

The Finns aren’t the only ones looking at 6G. In 2017, Qualcomm CTO Matt Grob admitted to me that it’s “thinking about that a little bit.” For now, though, companies like Qualcomm are probably focused enough on 5G that they’re leaving most of the early thoughts about 6G up to the academics.

The first 6Genesis seminar will happen this fall, Latva-aho says.