Updated: Nov 15, 2021
With 6G, mobile communications will play an essential role in the digital and connected future. Providers and users must prepare for these ten trends by 2030.
Since its availability in 2019, the 5G mobile communications standard has made considerable progress. In the meantime, 176 commercial 5G networks with more than 1.5 million base stations have been set up worldwide, which - at least theoretically - serve more than 500 million users.
But while the possibilities of 5G in the private and corporate environment have hardly been exhausted yet, mobile operators and equipment suppliers are already thinking about the further development, keyword 5.5 or even 6G. Huawei, for example, is convinced that by 2030 the digital and physical worlds will be deeply interwoven to create an almost real experience. Mobile networks are expected to be an important part of this smart world in 2030. At the Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) in Dubai, David Wang, Executive Director of the Board of Huawei and Chairman of the ICT Infrastructure Managing Board, presented the ten most important trends for the future of the mobile industry.
1. 10 Gbit/s and "zero" latency
According to Wang, AR and VR are already creating better simulated experiences, but this is just the beginning. The future will offer virtual experiences that are even more real, interactive and immersive. Mobile networks will be able to offer on-demand experiences that extend what we can see, hear, smell and touch from anywhere in the world.
The prerequisite for this, says Wang: to enable these functions, mobile networks everywhere would have to support 10 Gbit/s with a latency of one millisecond and transmit information in a more semantically organised way.
2. one network for 100 billion things
The second trend concerns the 100 billion IoT connections of a digital society that mobile networks will have to support by 2030. As Wang points out, nearly 300 million IoT devices are connected via narrowband IoT so far, but the maximum transmission capacity is severely limited. 5G NR (New Radio) can provide the necessary high bandwidth, but is not yet cost-efficient enough for most scenarios.
But with the digital society, not only the number of IoT connections is expected to increase continuously, the requirements are also becoming more diverse. For example, industries such as healthcare and manufacturing require a high uplink rate, low latency and high reliability, Wang explains. In other industries, such as logistics and environmental monitoring, on the other hand, the devices transmit only small amounts of data but must remain on standby for several years. In such cases, he says, a new form of wireless IoT is needed that features ultra-low power consumption and passive connections. Despite all these different requirements, a single powerful network is needed to integrate all IoT connections across all scenarios, the Huawei manager said.
3. satellite and ground for 3D coverage
Wang sees the third trend as the increased integration of different network coverage methods. This is not only to solve the problem that today three billion people still do not have access to the internet. By combining satellites and standard networks, one would also be able to cover 100 per cent of the globe. Furthermore, this would also achieve 3D coverage for the near-ground space to enable communication and control of aerial vehicles such as drones and aeroplanes.
From a technical point of view, network protocols, frequencies and devices would have to be integrated, the Huawei manager said. In addition, multi-antenna and radio multiplexing technologies, for example, could improve satellite coverage and spectrum efficiency.
4. True digital replicas
Huawei expects autonomous driving to be fully commercialised within the next decade. But this, and the control of delivery drones, will then require more advanced sensors and communications, Wang explains. These will make it possible to better recognise objects and movements - even to the point of dynamically creating multi-dimensional digital maps of the physical world.
With ultra-wideband and Massive MIMO, scanning at centimetre level can be achieved. In addition, cross-site collaboration between radio-based systems and intelligent high-resolution algorithms can expand coverage and provide continuous sensing without blind spots.
5. AI in every industry and connection
Not only will vehicles become autonomous, according to Wang, by 2030 mobile networks will also use AI to support automated operations and maintenance to achieve better performance and a lower carbon footprint. To do this, they will be given policies that define how they should behave in response to certain requirements.
This is based on the real-time status information reported by the base stations about themselves and their environment. With the help of models with digital twins, self-optimisation of network performance could gradually replace manual, experience-based optimisation, predicts the Huawei manager. The radio interfaces, which represent the most complex part of wireless networks, would then also have their own intelligence. All in all, Wang estimates, performance and energy efficiency could be improved by 50 percent.
6. networks - green, but powerful
Huawei assumes that network traffic will increase a hundredfold in a fully networked digital world. As a result, solutions are needed to reduce network energy consumption, Wang explains: energy efficiency must be considered in every aspect of network design, including radio interfaces, devices and locations.
For example, baseband units can be installed centrally. In addition, near-field networks make it possible to set up sites closer to users and reduce the transmission power of the network. AI could be used to put unused network segments into deep sleep to reduce power consumption.
7 Flexible full band below 100 GHz
With the increase in data traffic predicted by 2030, the demand for bandwidth and thus spectrum will naturally grow as well. Wang estimates that mobile phone use would require an average of about 2 GHz of additional bandwidth to be allocated in the range below 100 GHz. In addition, it would be necessary to free up the entire 20 GHz band for millimetre waves.
Carriers, in turn, would be required to support the development of the sub-100 GHz spectrum into New Radio. While combining sub-100 GHz bands with discrete frequencies remains a challenge, he said, as bands in low frequencies, for example, offer greater coverage but lower bandwidth, while high bands are ideal for traffic hotspots. However, the Huawei manager estimates that spectrum efficiency can be increased tenfold using multi-band integration and other innovative technologies.
8. multi-antenna technologies
Sustainable wireless networks require more cost-effective data transmission. To achieve this, Wang says that by 2030, multi-antenna technologies will be increasingly used in all frequency bands and all scenarios: as multiband evolves to 5G, modular ultra-wideband antennas based on metamaterials will be able to flexibly combine hardware and software via multiband modules. This will allow bands below 100 GHz to be deployed on the same module, greatly simplifying site configuration. In addition, multi-antenna solutions will reduce transmission costs by a hundredfold.
9. Security as a cornerstone
With the increasing importance of mobile networks, especially in industry, network security and resilience are coming more and more into focus. Secure and resilient mobile networks require both intrinsic device security and intelligent and simplified security at the network level. In the future, simplified service security will be required, explains the Huawei manager, not only to achieve integrated protection at the network element level, but also to fend off network-level threats with one click and achieve one-stop service at the application level. Intrinsic device security, in turn, creates the foundation for stronger protection and greater efficiency while reducing the number of nodes.
10. Mobile networks become mobile computing networks
Future mobile networks will support more diverse services, such as the metaverse, industrial networks and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications. This means that data processing must be seamlessly integrated into mobile networks to provide uninterrupted, high-quality services on demand, Wang explains. This is the only way operators can flexibly improve the service experience and develop new business models that integrate computing and network services, he adds. In addition, a mobile computing network will greatly improve the efficiency of services in all industries, he adds. (CW)