With 5G dominating the global conversation around wireless, it’s often easy to lose sight of future investment in innovation. After all, 5G is still just exiting “childhood” in terms of its ubiquity and impact on both consumers and businesses. But given the time and resources required to build the next generation of any technology, it’s important that we as an industry also focus on what needs to happen next.
Even as 5G continues to transform businesses and enable new use cases, 6G promises to open up even more new vistas, with human intelligence augmented by being seamlessly intertwined with network and digital technologies. 6G’s advances will help humans better understand our world and thus help to take action to resolve issues as varied as healthcare, education, sustainability, and more.
This is why as part of our continued focus on advanced wireless, Intel has joined Hexa-X, the EU Flagship research project helping to build the foundation for 6G wireless technologies. While 5G promises to remake multiple industries and the lives of individuals around the world, 6G looks to have a similar impact in terms of scope. The magnitude of this type of technological change requires much more than a single entity, but an entire ecosystem focused on delivering the innovations required to make that big step a reality. Hexa-X was born with this goal in mind.
The Hexa-X project’s vision is to connect human, physical, and digital worlds with a fabric of 6G key enablers. Intel is part of this European 6G Research Flagship effort, together with leading global organizations. Hexa-X plans on developing key technology enablers in the areas of:
- Fundamentally new radio access technologies at high frequencies and high-resolution localization and sensing;
- Connected intelligence through AI-driven air interface and governance for future networks, and
- 6G architectural enablers for network disaggregation and dynamic dependability.
In addition to its leadership in 5G, Intel aims to share its expertise on Compute, Data, AI and Edge to the project while leveraging the confluence of computation, communication and AI/ML in next-generation networks.
Intel holds two leadership roles within the project, which includes both leading the work on AI-driven communication and computation co-design as well as serving as the Innovation Manager of the project. The goal is to understand both market and technical challenges and to bridge project research achievements ensuring successful deployments in the real world. Intel is also involved in several project work areas, including system requirements and architecture components for AI/ML-powered, up to THz-capable and extreme Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), along with related aspects in data security, privacy and trust.
Beginning on January 1, 2021, Hexa-X is a 2.5-year project within the EU’s Horizon 2020 ICT-52 program, and is a consortium of 25 key players from adjacent industries and academia. Hexa-X is a broad collaborative initiative to frame the 6G research agenda and lay the groundwork for a long-term investment in future wireless network technology.
Hexa-X has identified six research challenges that need to be addressed to lay the technical foundation for 6G wireless systems:
- Connecting intelligence: AI/Machine Learning (ML) technologies need to be a vital and trusted tool for significantly improved efficiency and service experience, serving humans
- Network of networks: multiple types of resources need to be aggregated to create a digital ecosystem that grows more and more capable, intelligent, and heterogeneous, eventually creating a single network of networks
- Sustainability: energy-optimized digital infrastructure for a reduced global ICT environmental footprint, as well as delivering effective and sustainable digitization tools for global industry, society and policymakers
- Global service coverage: efficient and affordable solutions for global service coverage, connecting remote places
- Extreme experience: extreme bitrates, extremely low (imperceptible) latencies, seemingly infinite capacity, and precision localization and sensing
- Trustworthiness: ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of communications and delivering data privacy, operational resilience and security
While the world is just beginning to reap the benefits of 5G innovation, it is imperative that we, as an industry, continue to invest in, explore, and advance wireless technology as a whole. Already a critical element in the fabric of business and society, mobility’s importance will only continue to grow as we address issues of global importance, including sustainability, and digital transformation. 6G promises to advance each of those, as well as give us the ability to augment human intelligence itself.