Mixed reality and autonomous cars? How 6G could rip up the application rulebook

Which applications are ripe for 6G innovation?

Guy Matthews

If the UK is to emerge as a leader in 6G technology development, what use cases will be first out of the blocks, inspiring potential enterprise and consumer adopters?

Sensory 6G

It has been said that 6G will be about a lot more than simple connectivity.

“6G will enable new digital sensory experiences,” says Camille Mendler, Chief Analyst with Omdia. “Remotely touching an object, feeling texture, controlling with thought in realistic immersive worlds, all may be possible sometime around 2030.”

Those seeking to develop solutions in this area must ask what makes a sensory 6G experience good or bad, she believes.

“Which experiences are worth paying a premium for? What experiences might carry a health warning?”

Real-time 6G

6G will exceed 5G’s capabilities via a multiplicity of networked sensors, objects and devices, all capable of producing, sharing, and assessing data in real time. This will enable much greater intelligence, agility, and manageability, delivering value from data in ways that are hard to imagine today.

To give a glimpse into this future, the University of Bristol demonstrated its new Multi-Access Technology Real-Time Intelligent Controller (mATRIC) technology at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, as an example of emerging 6G network capabilities.

Omdia has found that 56% of enterprises questioned would pay for the real-time data analytics and enhanced SLAs that will be enabled.

Immersive 6G

Immersive technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been with us for a while. The 6G era will take this forward with extended reality (XR), moving immersion to a new level. For example, by overlaying computer text and graphics into blended real-world and virtual environments.

Omdia found that nine out of 10 enterprises see compelling use cases for next generation immersive technology, with a fifth already investing.

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AI-driven 6G

6G is often talked of as AI native.

“There will certainly be areas where AI and 6G converge, like decentralised architectures and distributed computing,” believes Charlotte Patrick, independent telecoms industry analyst, formerly of Gartner. “It’s not clear at this stage whether these will be things that telcos do themselves, or are done by other players.”

Autonomous 6G

6G will take us from the pervasive connectivity we enjoy today to full 360-degree situational awareness and the possibility of a multitude of connected assets collaborating to accomplish tasks. This will propel us to the self-driving car, perhaps but more likely towards self-directed fleets.

Interestingly, projects are already starting to emerge. The University of Oulu and the Finnish Meteorological Institute, for example, have embarked on a project looking at 6G’s potential role in autonomous driving. 

Managing 6G energy

More applications and greater connectivity will require a lot more energy. Its cost to the planet and in terms of operational expenditure, is one of the biggest innovation challenges of 6G. The WAVES research group of imec at Ghent University has developed a technology- and vendor-agnostic radio access network (RAN) design tool to help address energy efficiency in the network. It creates a 3D model of an area and populates it with virtual users, to enable network designers to calculate the amount, locations, and power levels of base stations. This is to ensure optimal coverage within a given area.

Guy Matthews
Guy Matthews / Writer

Guy has been a technology journalist for over 35 years during which time he has edited and written for numerous newspapers and magazines. A particular specialism for the past 20 years has been the market for wholesale telecoms services. As one of the main freelance writers for Capacity magazine, Guy has written in depth on topics ranging from developments in subsea cabling and the evolution of the Internet of Things to Carrier Ethernet standards and the challenges of network security. He has also contributed to European Communications, Mobile Europe, Vanilla Plus, IoT Now and The Register.