Next G Alliance shows the stairway to US 6G leadership heaven

  • US industry body Next G Alliance has published its 'Roadmap to 6G' report
  • It suggests how 6G should be promoted and standardised to unlock future innovation
  • Alliance’s aim is to help North America become the ultimate powerhouse in the 6G era
  • It’s not the only group battling for intellectual dominance in the emerging 6G sector – other regions are striving to be seen as the leading authority in next-gen comms

The Next G Alliance, a US-based industry group that’s part of the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) specifications organization, has presented a 6G vision for North America and outlined steps necessary to secure the region’s leadership in wireless technology from the next decade onwards.

The alliance has come up with what it calls six “audacious goals” outlining the main priorities for North America’s leading role in future 6G-related global standards, deployments, products, operations and services.

  1. The first highlighted target is around making sure future networks are “fully trusted by people, businesses and governments to be resilient, secure, privacy preserving, safe, reliable and available under all circumstances.”
  2. Another goal is for an enhanced “digital world experience” with multi-sensory elements enabling “transformative forms of human collaboration”, in addition to “human-machine and machine-machine interactions” to transform work, education and entertainment which, the alliance says, will improve the quality of life and bring “great economic value”.
  3. Cost-efficiency across all aspects of the network architecture is another aim outlined in the group’s roadmap manifesto.
  4. It also highlighted the need for distributed cloud and communications systems build on virtualisation technologies. Benefits touted from this are increased flexibility, performance and resiliency for “key use cases” such as mixed reality, interactive gaming and multi-sensory applications.
  5. The Next G Alliance also calls for an AI-native network to improve the robustness and efficiencies of wireless and cloud technologies in scenarios with “more diverse traffic type”, ultra-dense deployment topologies and challenging spectrum situations.
  6. Last, but far from least, sustainability should be at the forefront of decisions throughout the lifecycle, with advancements to be made in changing how electricity is used in supporting next-gen communications and computer networks, and in addition, strengthening the role technology plays in protecting the environment.

The Alliance also outlined a timeline to promote strategies for R&D, market readiness and adoption of 6G technologies.

“This report will ensure North America proactively aligns all critical sectors vital to 6G success to create a foundation for North American global leadership. Beyond its technical contributions, the roadmap shows how 6G can benefit society and industries in a variety of sectors – as well as how North America will become an epicentre of innovation-driven economic growth in a new era of wireless,” commented ATIS President and CEO Susan Miller.

The Alliance called for government policymakers to support industry innovation, including through coordinating with “partner nations sharing similar goals”, backing domestic R&D via funding and tax incentives, and promoting public and private investment in commercialisation and deployment of next-gen wireless technologies.

“Although 6G will likely not be ready for market until the turn of the decade, government action to ensure that North America leads in this effort – such as making available adequate and appropriate spectrum – needs to start now in order to meet that timeline”, the group emphasised.

The Next G Alliance consists of 80 members, including big-names such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon from the telecom operator community, and Apple, Cisco, Google, Intel, Meta, Nokia, Qualcomm and others from the telecom vendor and broader tech industry.

Its goal is to “advance North American mobile technology leadership” within the next decade through private sector-led efforts.

The global race towards 6G

Of course, similar ambitions and related work are being launched in other parts of the world, which are equally keen to become the leading 6G hub.

The European Union (EU), for one, set in motion its first large-scale 6G research and innovation programme in December 2021. The Work Programme 2021-2022 was allocated €240 million by the European Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU) entity, with the aim to support activities including 5G evolution, large-scale trials and pilots with vertical industries, and 6G systems research. More about EU’s ambitions can be found here.

Also in Europe, industry organisations ETSI and the NGMN have a strong focus on 6G R&D, use case development and related specifications. (See What is 6G? The NGMN Alliance offers some foundational ideas.)

Germany also wants to ensure it is influencing 6G roadmaps. (See Germany pumps €700 million into 6G R&D.)

And there are multiple hopefuls in Asia-Pacific. 

China, currently the global leader in 5G in terms of subscriber uptake, is also contesting for 6G dominance. Local media reported in March 2021 that technologies enabled by the future networks were made a top priority in the nation’s 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025).

Furthermore, BBC News reported in November 2020 the country has launched “the world’s first 6G” test satellite into orbit, and more recent reports claim a lab backed by the Chinese government has achieved a world record for real-time wireless transmission through 6G technology with speed of 206.25 Gbps, which is 10 to 20 times faster than the earlier generation.

South Korea is also positioning itself as a 6G influencer, reportedly pouring KRW220 billion (equivalent to around $183 million today) into developing 6G-related technologies. The East Asian country targets to be the first in the world to commercialise 6G in 2028, local newspaper Aju Business Daily reported in June 2021.

And, of course, South Korean giant Samsung has long had 6G in its sights. (See Samsung’s mammoth investment plans include 5G/6G.)

And in Japan, work is already underway in bridging the 5G and 6G eras by various groups and individual companies. (See Japanese consortium explores ‘Space RAN’ opportunities for 5G, 6G and SoftBank outlines 12 challenges for 6G.)

Not all efforts are localized though, of course: While the US is keen to be out in front, it’s also keen to work with allies such as Japan to strengthen ties and share developments. (See US and Japan team on Open RAN, 6G R&D.)

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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