Enable-6G: Yet another 6G R&D effort spearheaded by Telefónica de España
Telefónica de España has initiated yet another 6G R&D project, named Enable-6G, that aims to tackle the user privacy protection and energy-efficiency challenges associated with future generation wireless networks. In a statement, the Spanish telco announced the launch of the Enable-6G project, which is funded by the European Union’s economic recovery plan NextGenerationEU as well as Spain’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.
The initiative is led by the IMDEA Networks Institute (an innovation and development centre in Spain) and includes involvement from tech giant NEC and BluSpecs (a Spanish digital transformation consultant). It is designed to address “the challenges that will be faced by future 6G networks, such as increased connectivity, higher performance demands, and advanced object and environment detection and communication,” the company noted.
One of the main objectives is to ensure advanced privacy protections are built into the architecture, as precise mapping and sensing, data privacy and security have become major concerns, and has also become a major benefit for new use cases. Another strategic objective is the design and implementation of software-defined networks that can operationalise optimized edge-to-cloud processing to facilitate time-critical and geo-distributed network orchestration (e.g., via the application of control-task algorithms). The ENABLE-6G project represents a major step forward in the new technologies into 6G to improve wireless communications, provide environmental sensing and significantly reduce the energy footprint per device to avoid a large overall increase in network power consumption. We are excited about the potential impact of this project and look forward to collaborating with our partners to bring it to fruition.
Telefónica is one of the leading private R&D centers in Spain, aiming to explore and develop new technologies and solutions that can improve the company’s existing products and services, as well as identify and create new business opportunities in the telecommunications and technology sectors. One of the big companies joining this project is NEC Corporation, with a great capacity has a strong commitment to research and development and invests heavily in new technologies and innovative solutions. ENABLE-6G counts on the excellent IMDEA Networks scientists, one of the best innovation and development centres in Spain, with a variety of experts from all over the world. Finally, this project will count on the consultancy of BluSpecs, facilitating the digital transformation of private and public organisations through the application of knowledge, data, and methodologies in the field of strategy, implementation of new technologies and innovation.
Opinion: The rush to 6G R & D is incomprehensible to this author, as there are still so many holes in 5G specifications and standards. Moreover, 5G Advanced specs (3GPP Release 18) have not been completed. Hence, there is no ITU-R standards work even started for that. There isn’t even an ITU-R recommendation that specifies 6G functionality or features!
The development of the G project “has become crucial”, according to Telefónica, as it has become evident that 6G networks need to be “more adaptable and intelligent” so that they can give rise to a future vision that tackles “greater levels of complexity, contextualisation, and data traffic” – all the while consuming less energy, and providing enhanced security and privacy measures so that anyone developing future technology is given the level of trust required for the “widespread implementation of next-generation devices and nodes”.
A main objective for the Enable-6G project is to ensure “advanced privacy protections are built into the architecture,” given that precise mapping and sensing, as well as data privacy and security, are major concerns but also provide a great opportunity for new service development.
The initiative will also focus on designing and implementing software-defined networks (SDN) that can operationalise optimised edge-to-cloud processing, with the end goal being to support time-critical and geo-distributed network orchestration.
Enable-6G will look to provide “environmental sensing” which, according to Telefónica, will significantly reduce the energy footprint per device and prevent a large increase in overall network power usage.
While 5G networks and services are still being deployed and developed, many players in the industry are already exploring the potential of wireless 6G.
As well as Enable-6G, Telefónica is also active in another European 6G project, called Hexa-X-II, which involves participation from Orange and Telecom Italia, as well as vendors Nokia and Ericsson.
Also in Europe, German operator Deutsche Telekom is leading a consortium of 22 partners as part of the 6G-TakeOff research project within the broader 6G industrial projects funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) – see Deutsche Telekom, Nokia take lead roles in European 6G projects. Ericsson is launching a €5.7m research and innovation consortium in Europe, called Deterministic6G, with which Orange is also involved, as well as several other members – see News brief: 6G R&D gathers pace in Europe.
Meanwhile, China plans to launch 6G by 2025 – way in advance of any standards which imply no interoperability! India has their Bharat 6G vision document with plans to launch a 6G research and development testbed.
In the UK, the government has invested £110m in 5G, 6G and telecom security research and development initiatives, in collaboration with BT, Cellnex, Virgin Media O2, Ericsson, Mavenir, Nokia, Parallel Wireless and Samsung, among others – see UK government pumps £110m into 5G, 6G R&D.
More recently, the UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) announced that it plans to invest up to £100m into “a new long-term national mission to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of both adopting and developing 6G – the future of digital connectivity.”
Elsewhere, Japanese telco NTT Docomo is also taking strides towards shaping the future of 6G, including issuing advice in the form of whitepaper reports in partnership with its South Korean peer SK Telecom (SKT).
While in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently set out a vision, dubbed Bharat 6G, that aims to put India on the global map of leaders in the 6G era – see India eyes global leadership role in 6G.
North American is also involved into the 6G R&D sector. US industry group The Next G Alliance has been active in depicting a 6G vision for North America, drawing up a roadmap of necessary steps to secure the region’s leadership in wireless technology from the next decade onwards.
Enable-6G launched to unlock the potential of Future 6G Networks
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Another Opinion on 6G:
6G is the upcoming sixth-generation cellular network technology that is currently in early development. One of the goals of 6G cellular technology is not just to deliver basic content faster to smartphones, like streaming video, but to create a cellular network capable of supporting real-time augmented reality, virtual reality, and a future Internet of Things (IoT) model where small smart devices are a ubiquitous presence in and outside of our homes.
When reading anything about 6G, especially the breathless and hype-laden announcements from telecommunications companies that emphasize how 6G will usher in the metaverse, a fusion of our physical and virtual lives, and so on, you should keep the “early” part of early development in mind.
Currently, there are no established 6G specifications or standards, let alone deployed 6G networks or devices. Even the most basic aspects of 6G development, like which specific frequencies the next generation cellular technology will rely on, are still being ironed out along with technical challenges like energy and heat dissipation demands of advanced 6G devices.
That said, we do have some idea what 6G will look like. Current cellular technology operates in the Megahertz (MHz) and the lower Gigahertz (GHz) frequency ranges. The portion of the radio spectrum under consideration and testing for 6G includes frequencies in the 30-300 Ghz range—also known as millimeter waves (mmWave) or Extremely High Frequency (EHF) radio—and the Terahertz (THz) frequency up to 3000 Ghz. The use of these frequencies will allow for data transmission well beyond the bandwidth capacity of current cellular technology.
In December of 2022, Qualcomm released a 6G development plan with 2030 as a projected rollout date for 6G tech. Ericsson’s 6G messaging echoes the early 2030s timeframe too, as do various interviews with telecom executives.
5G was first introduced in 2019. Four years later, there are still millions of cellular subscribers using 4G, and 5G is yet to have a fully realized coast-to-coast rollout. GSMA’s authoritative 2023 Mobile Economy report, for instance, indicates North American adoption rate of 5G is only 39%, with more than half of cellular subscribers still using 4G. By their projections, the North American 5G adoption rate will be 91% by 2030, meaning by the time 6G potentially arrives, there will still be 4G subscribers out there.
Given the current development timelines, you should expect a delivery arc similar to the 5G rollout. If you live in a major metropolitan area, there is a good chance you’ll be covered by early 6G networks around 2030. If you’re not in a major metropolitan area, it’s likely you’ll be waiting well into the 2030s for the 6G rollout.
So if we step away from the hype and look at the matter practically, it’s likely only a small percentage of people will be using 6G-based networks by 2030. But the bulk of North American subscribers, and certainly the majority of global subscribers, will still be on 5G networks.