To address these physical and technical constraints, innovation leaps are needed, but the promise of applications powered by advanced 6G connectivity is motivating creative solutions.
Adaptive technological solutions are an important area of research. Instead of focusing on optimizing bandwidth for a single device, say, the 6G network will use nearby devices to provide needed bandwidth and reduce latency. This 3D signal shaping focuses on combining and processing wireless signals from multiple sources, based on their proximity to the end user.
New semiconductor materials will help manage space requirements for devices and handle wider frequency bands. While requiring complex engineering, a promising approach combines traditional silicon circuits with those made from more exotic compound semiconductors, such as indium phosphide. In addition, researchers are looking at ways to change the environment with reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (“smart surfaces”) that can optimize signal propagation to modify signals in real time to deliver better bandwidth and lower latency.
Another research method is based on artificial intelligence to manage networks and optimize communication. Different types of network usage (for example, texting, gaming, and streaming) create different types of network demand. AI solutions allow a system to predict this demand based on behavioral patterns, rather than having engineers always design for the highest levels of demand.
Nichols sees great potential for networks from improvements in artificial intelligence. “Today’s systems are so complex, with so many levers to meet diverse demands,” says Nichols, “that most optimization decisions are limited to first-order tweaks like more sites, updated radios, better backhaul, more efficient data gateways.” , and restricting certain users.” In contrast, using artificial intelligence to handle the optimization presents “an important opportunity for a move to autonomous, self-optimized and self-organized networks.”
Virtual simulations and digital twin technology are promising tools that will not only aid in 6G innovation, but will be further enabled by 6G once it is implemented. These emerging technologies can help companies test their products and systems in a sandbox that simulates real-world conditions, enabling equipment makers and application developers to test concepts in complex environments and create early product prototypes for 6G networks.
While engineers and researchers have proposed innovative solutions, Nichols notes that building 6G networks also requires consensus among technology providers, operators and carriers. As the rollout of 5G networks continues, industry players need to create a cohesive vision for what applications the next-generation network will support and how their technologies will work together.
However, it is this collaboration and complexity that can yield the most exciting and lasting results. Nichols notes that the wide range of engineering specialties needed to build 6G, and the industrial collaboration needed to launch it, will drive exciting interdisciplinary innovation. Due to the resulting demand for new solutions, the path to 6G will be paved, in Nichols’ words, with “an enormous amount of technical research, development and innovation from electronics to semiconductors to antennas to radio network systems to internet protocols to artificial intelligence to cybersecurity.”
This content is produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT The Tech Warrior. It was not written by the editors of MIT The Tech Warrior.