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6G seeks to fill the mobile services void being left by 5G

6G seeks to fill the mobile services void being left by 5G

5G take-up globally across industry verticals hasn’t exactly been a huge success after all the hype, which is unfortunate for those trying to carve a niche in the next generation mobile services space.

The initial “5G” deployments combined 4G technology and 5G in the networks, and the promised low latency for new mission-critical applications wasn’t delivered as a result.

The numbers of newer deployments of “pure” 5G, otherwise known as “5G Standalone (SA)” have gone up, but, by the time this started to happen in earnest, many potential 5G use cases, and a large chunk of customer demand, were reduced.

This situation was, of course, not helped by the pandemic. But some in the industry are moving on regardless, and are now looking towards 6G as a likelier technology to deliver lower latency and big data solutions.

6G is seen as a more reliable option for demanding manufacturing applications and serving the needs of Industry 4.0, as well as digital twins, immersive computing (including the metaverse), and true distributed computing from the cloud to the edge.

We will see what happens with 5G and higher-performing “5G-Advanced” network solutions in the next couple of years. But IT Europa was recently invited to see the efforts being made in one 6G development hot spot, in Oulu, Northern Finland, as part of a tour organised by Business Finland.

The main 6G players in this city on the edge of Lapland, consisting of over 200,000 people, include the local authority, the large international university, inward investment organisation Business Finland, national technology development organisation VTT, and Nokia, among a number of other technology companies and public bodies.

These organisations have had access to national funds totalling over €380 million since 2018, to help research and develop 6G technologies in Finland. They have also had shared access to European Union funds worth €380 million, that are there to develop key 6G technologies and projects across Europe.

The 6G Flagship is the central plank of Oulu’s 6G effort, and is based at the University of Oulu. It is funded until 2028, when it expects to start full 6G trials alongside partners. The general consensus among the various bodies that IT Europa met on the tour, was that 6G will be commercially launched by operators in Europe in 2030.

Matti Latva-aho, 6G Flagship director, said 5G was supposed to have brought in many more new players to the mobile services space, with the established telco operators providing the underlying infrastructure. These incumbents were supposedly going to allow the new providers to give end customers exactly what they wanted using 5G connectivity tailored to their needs.

Instead, what we’ve mainly seen globally so far, is telcos still owning the end customer, in partnership with the infrastructure technology providers like Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and Huawei. This alliance of established players have mainly been involved in providing private 5G networks, as part of a limited number of use case studies.

“5G wasn’t supposed to be operator-centric,” said Latva-aho. When asked what applications 6G will be used for, Latva-aho, speaking like the internationally-recognised engineer he is, says 6G will be ready for “whatever is used in the 2030s era”.

Engineers can only build what they are asked to build. If not many take advantage of the facilities, or aren’t allowed to, it’s not their fault.

More to follow from the Oulu 6G tour...