6G to consider society’s needs: A voice from NGMN MNOs across the world

The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) alliance published its first 6G White Paper “6G Drivers and Vision”. While various views have already been shared by many organisations in industry and academia, says Quan Zhao, one of the three NGMN 6G project co-leads, and a senior member of technical staff in the Future Mobile Technology Lab, China Mobile.

NGMN takes a unique position, “As a global organisation representing the entire value chain, NGMN is set to take the lead in providing impactful guidance for global 6G activities to respond to the needs of end users, societies, mobile network operators and the ecosystem as a whole.”

Background

Starting from 2019, there has been a significant number of discussions on 6G, in both industry and academia. Many organisations have initiated work towards 6G. However, there are very few opinions that have come from operators. In order to provide a timely guidance to the industry and to encourage a coordinated global effort in 6G development, in October 2020, NGMN started its important 6G project. The project was soon joined by 16 operators across Asia, Europe and North America and is chaired by three co-leads from China Mobile, US Cellular and Vodafone, representing three important geographical regions.

The White Paper “6G Drivers and Vision”, published on 19th April 2021, was endorsed by 22 NGMN Mobile Network Operator (MNO) members.

Content highlights

Considering 6G is still at its very early stage, the first NGMN White Paper is not intended to define what 6G is or to forecast which new technologies will be used. Instead, it identifies more fundamental aspects such as why 6G is needed and what are the most important aspects the industry should focus on. This White Paper is the project’s first deliverable, more will follow over the next years, including use cases and end-to-end requirements.

In this White Paper, the Mobile Network Operators share their views on 6G drivers, 6G vision, developmental considerations and key challenges. These are complemented by the information about NGMN’s ongoing and planned 6G related activities.

The paper identifies three key drivers for 6G, the societal goals, the market expectations, and the operational necessities, as explained below.

First, the continuing evolution of the mobile industry and the underlying technologies should address a number of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), such as environmental sustainability, efficient delivery of health care, reduction in poverty and inequality, improvements in public safety and privacy, support for ageing populations, and managing expanding urbanisation.

Quan Zhao

Second, there is a strong need for Mobile Network Operators to make the planning, deployment, operations, and management of the networks more efficient.

Last but not least, customer requirements need to be satisfied by new services and capabilities and have to be supported by technology evolutions in a cost-effective manner.

In its Vision Section, the White Paper shares a high-level view on novelty, capability, and new advancements pushing the envelope of performance, new business models, trustworthiness, etc.

Above all, a high emphasis is put on a healthy ecosystem and global standards, which is one of the NGMN 6G project’s major objectives. The operator driven Alliance confirms that it will “continue to take an active role to provide impactful guidance” to “ensure that technologies are developed holistically across different standards developing organisations (SDOs)”, and outlines 5 fundamental aspects; increasing the SDOs’ scope, building a new standard’s evolution paradigm, avoiding standards’ fragmentation, clear differentiation from 5G, and supply chain diversity and security.

Another key point indicated in the paper is the expectation of 6G’s development and deployment with an agile approach. “6G is expected to break from the historical approach of technology generations. The approach for 6G should be based on agile and fully flexible systems”.

At the end of the Vision Section, the White Paper outlines a list of key challenges and research priorities for the industry to focus on, including:

  • Technologies: new interfaces, ubiquitous experience across virtual and physical platforms, sensing, immersive mixed realities, large bandwidth, new spectrum
  • Coverage and connection: seamless coverage across land, sea and sky
  • Cost and energy efficiency: delivering heterogeneous services with extremely diverse requirements
  • Design approach: disaggregation, software-based agile, cognitive and autonomous networks
  • Network evolution: AI by design, digital twin representation
  • Harmonised and coordinated global standards and ecosystem

Future works

NGMN has positioned 6G as one of its key strategic topics. At the end of this White Paper, NGMN reveals the plan on 6G; “NGMN will define more details and specifics including use cases and end-to-end requirements. NGMN establishes and maintains the dialogues with future users and has launched a questionnaire aiming at collecting inputs about digital service expectations at the 2030-2035 horizon. We invite interested industry players to join our endeavor for the benefit of the global ecosystem.”

Undoubtedly, on the way to 6G, the industry will continue to be guided by the unique voice from NGMN Mobile Network Operators across the world.

The author  is Quan Zhao, one of the three NGMN 6G project co-leads, a senior member of technical staff in the Future Mobile Technology Lab, China Mobile.

About the author

Quan Zhao is one of the three NGMN 6G project co-leads, a senior member of technical staff in the Future Mobile Technology Lab, China Mobile. Quan has more than 23 years of industry experiences in the telecoms sector and is now focusing on 6G network architecture-related research.

About NGMN Alliance

The NGMN Alliance (Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance) is a forum founded by Mobile Network Operators and open to all partners in the mobile industry. Its goal is to ensure that next generation network infrastructure, service platforms and devices will meet the requirements of operators and, ultimately, will satisfy end user demand and expectations.

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