Dirk Schulz ABB Corporate Research Ladenburg, Germany, firstname.lastname@example.org
The game-changing connectivity and data exchange capabilities of 5G are transforming the world. Ultra-reliable low-latency and high-bandwidth communication, universality, scalability, determinism and high device density are just some of 5G’s characteristics that technology companies such as ABB are looking to adopt.
While the continued standardization, development and rollout of 5G will take the greater part of the current decade, the telecom industry and academia have already started working on 6G. What new horizons in the digital world could 6G open up?
In a nutshell, 5G provides a universal “connect and compute” infrastructure with a performance an order of magnitude beyond 4G. In contrast, 6G might be summarized to postulate a “perceive, localize, and understand” ecosystem, fueled by artificial intelligence (AI) and radio innovations but no longer limited to cellular technology. Connectivity and computation should feel ubiquitous and unlimited, and the human experience is at the center more than ever.
Technically, 6G aims to consolidate and upscale aspects that 5G already claims: integrating (real-time) connectivity with (edge) computation; virtualized software-defined networking; network-sharing between operators and users; integration of wireless and (external) wired networks; localization; and machine-to-machine communication. Furthermore, 6G will embrace non-cellular communication and provide intelligence rather than merely transmitting data.
6G specifically aims to innovate in the following technologies and features to evolve and disrupt the “5G triangle” in →01:
• Terahertz radio and new spectrum space, leading to higher bandwidth (100 Gbps to 1 Tbps) and lower latencies (0.1 ms)
• Extreme ultra-reliability (to be quantified)
• Ultra-massive device density (100 per m³)
• High-resolution localization (10 cm indoor) and sensing
• Communication and computation co-design driven by AI
• Semantic communications and knowledge systems, delivering intelligence, not just data
• Non-cellular communication (WiFi 6, satellites, reflective surfaces, etc.)
6G is still in the initial concept stage, with standardization expected to begin around 2025 and commercial availability at the end of the decade at the earliest.
If, in the long run, “everything is 6G,” this might complete the trend of IT/OT convergence, where automation and telecommunication infrastructures become one. So, monitoring 6G standardization progress and maintaining strategic partnerships are important tasks that ABB has already started with 5G and cloud computing. Subscribing to the value propositions of cellular technology, the next step remains to verify the capabilities and value of 5G in pilots with ABB customers. This must be the starting point for the continuous integration of cellular technology, whether 5G or 6G, as part of ABB’s solution offering.