Ericsson contributes to the transatlantic 6G vision and roadmap
The EU and the US took an important step towards advancing a common 6G vision and exploring collaboration opportunities during the fourth Trade and Technology Council meeting (TTC 4) in May 2023 . Along with the TTC 4 announcement, a transatlantic 6G collaboration was also announced through a 6G MoU signed between ATIS Next G Alliance, the North American voice for 6G, and the 6G Industry Association (6G-IA), the private member of the EU Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU).
Ahead of the scheduled TTC 5 on January 30-31, a joint document outlining a transatlantic 6G industry roadmap, along with key strategic reflections and recommendations for 6G networks and services was published by 6G-IA and ATIS NextG Alliance.
As an active member of both organizations, 6G IA and ATIS NextG Alliance, Ericsson has been instrumental in developing the joint document and is committed to leading the way in this exciting transatlantic 6G collaboration. Below is a brief overview of the six key areas for collaboration outlined in the joint document. The full paper can be downloaded here.
Six recommendations for transatlantic 6G research priorities
The joint document captures strategic views and priorities for 6G networks and services from ATIS Next G Alliance and the SNS JU joint report. The goal is a roadmap for future opportunities through the EU and US funding instruments. Six collaboration areas are identified to assist academic and business stakeholders across the Atlantic including:
- joint work to address environmental, social, and economic sustainability goals,
- semiconductor research for RF microelectronics for wireless communication in mid-band and sub-THz frequencies,
- support for distributed cloud functionality over standard interfaces,
- strong research collaboration and innovation across the EU and the US to create open network solutions,
- AI-native air interface development addressing energy efficiency, datasets and models, and trustworthy privacy-preserving AI workflows, and
- secure dependable supply chain management and resiliency in 6G networks that provide recovery from disturbances, faults, and attacks.
Alignment and participation in a scaled-up collaboration and funding of a public-private partnership involving industry, academia, and government was also agreed.
Workshops between ATIS and SNS identified the need for joint technology proofs of concepts (PoCs) focused on specific industry verticals as well as strategies for workforce development in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
1. Promoting 6G sustainable solutions
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry in the US and the EU clearly acknowledges the importance of high ambitions in the sustainability domain.
Their agreed recommendations on several important topics include:
- To address the full UN scope of sustainability, covering environmental, social, and economic aspects.
- To study the sustainability impact of ICT activities, referred to as “Sustainable 6G,” and the positive effects in other domains, called “6G for Sustainability”, and to keep these separate and distinct in order to be transparent about the cost involved.
- To standardize the next generation of networks with a minimal environmental footprint, emphasizing circular economic principles. This will involve prioritizing energy-efficient technologies and promoting a dual development perspective that considers both performance targets and sustainability values.
- To enable and support use cases that can play important roles in the sustainable transformation of society, notably supporting climate change adaptation and resilience of society.
2. Microelectronics and 6G
Both the US and the EU have recognized the role played by the semiconductor industry in creating the ICT revolution and the dangers of not advancing state-of-the-art technologies. Advances in integrated circuit technologies have enabled an expansion in chip density for decades. This trend is continuing to advance Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technologies even as advances in heterogeneous integration and novel packaging techniques are sought to improve the efficiency and yield of integrated circuits. Much remains to be done by the ICT industry in terms of investing in research and technological advancements in several areas for 6G.
The agreed recommendations include:
- cost-effective and energy-efficient technologies for semiconductors for native artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) hardware,
- wide-band Radio Frequency (RF) technologies for communications in various frequency bands and associated sensing technologies,
- metamaterials technologies that can revolutionize the way antennas and Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS) are built and used,
- power-efficient general-purpose cloud hardware and associated software techniques,
- advanced sensor electronics for industrial applications integrated with energy-efficient AI/ML-enabled data processing,
- System-on-Chip (SoC) technologies for high data rates and low latency operation within wideband channels, and
- extension of frequency ranges further into the mmWave and sub-THz domains.
These areas are ripe for a gap analysis of capabilities and building confidence in the supply chains that can help technology adoption at scale. The ICT industry anticipates close partnership with the US and the EU administrations so that the above objectives are met during the 6G era.
3. Cloud solutions and distributed computing
6G will operate on a distributed cloud spread across the core, the edge of the network, and the device, thereby merging computing, communication, and data services. This will transform the architecture across the entire infrastructure of regional and metro area data centers, cell sites, on-premises equipment, and devices. Integrating distributed computing resources in this distributed cloud continuum can offer richer and more dynamic cloud services to applications.
Beyond network nodes, there is also a benefit of integrating mobile devices into the edge processing, especially considering new demanding services. Sensing, data collection, and data processing locally in the device minimizes data transfer. But simpler devices might have limited processing capabilities, and more advanced devices come with battery limitations, reasons that can make it attractive to move loads freely within the continuum.
The agreed recommendations for 6G development are:
- Support different business models and regulatory requirements, and also enable disaggregated components supporting standardized interfaces between different stakeholders.
- Develop methodologies and frameworks for end-to-end guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS) across heterogeneous platforms.
4. Open networks
The agreed recommendations aim to fortify the EU-US collaborative research and innovation landscape for open network solutions, specifically focusing on open interfaces. While initiatives like Open RAN are in progress, ongoing development calls for increased engagement from diverse industry stakeholders. Key efforts include: 1) assessing pros and cons, 2) striking a balance between open and purpose-built solutions, and 3) gaining a deeper understanding of open networks' potential.
The agreed recommendations include:
- strengthening collaborative research to address security and privacy,
- establishing pan US-EU testing facilities for result verification,
- encouraging involvement of academic and business stakeholders, and
- creating a public marketplace for experimentation and knowledge generation.
5. AI and 6G
The importance of AI for ICT development and the future of networks stands clear to both the US and EU partners. Using AI as a tool for managing networks can lead to significant improvements in resource efficiency in terms of energy consumption, spectrum usage, and human work efforts.
In 6G, we need to explore the most promising tracks of using AI to achieve gains. This effort can be supported by an AI-native air interface, architecture, and protocols to promote the seamless integration of AI-based models.
The joint report recommends that:
- Shared datasets and models need to be developed to accelerate development and ensure quality and joint work in standards organization will ensure global alignment and usefulness.
- The EU and the US will take the lead in ensuring trustworthiness of AI models, ensuring they are robust and explainable and can meet both mission-critical and safety-critical needs in society.
6. Trustworthiness and cyber security
The US and EU recognize the critical role of telecommunications infrastructure in fostering trust and confidence in business processes within the ICT industry that includes all stakeholders in the sector. It means that we will need 6G networks and associated services to be secure, privacy-preserving, reliable, available, and resilient. This will require a focus on standardization, validation, and testing of security procedures to ensure the security and interoperability of interfaces in commercial products comply with the established standards.
Agreed recommendations for trustworthiness will require that:
- components, functions, and processes in the network used for automation must account for overall end-to-end performance, including reliability and resilience,
- security levels are evaluated and exposed in a manner that builds user confidence,
- well-vetted post-quantum cryptographic algorithms, cloud computing environments, and communication interfaces capable of using authorization and integrity verification of hardware and software components based on strong root-of-trust identity mechanisms are introduced, and
- common frameworks and standards for evaluating and ensuring the security of 6G networks with defined security assurance levels that ensure security-by-design are created.
The ICT industry is committed to developing resilience mechanisms into 6G technology across the entire life cycle to protect against threats. Additionally, there will be a concerted effort to agree on data-centric approaches to intelligent automation that can enable a zero-trust network architecture. Lastly, the use of AI/ML for security solutions for continuous threat detection and automation of responses will allow 6G networks to scale up to meet the demands of the next decade.
Looking ahead at the transatlantic 6G collaboration
Transatlantic 6G research cooperation has the potential to bring about ground-breaking foundational technologies that can ensure technology leadership on a global level. This can be facilitated through US-EU convergence on key technology requirements. Additionally, the cooperation will seek consensus on leading use cases that will benefit society by addressing current and future challenges, such as sustainability aspects as outlined in the UN SDGs.
EU-US support of research efforts to crystallize the fundamental technologies that will enrich 6G technology will bring benefits to society, industries, and consumers. The US-EU progress on 6G security and trustworthiness to ensure resilient 6G infrastructure, enabling ecosystem, ICT supply chains, and end-user services is foundational to a new era where 6G will assume accountability for business- and mission-critical automation that can avail of wireless technologies.
The 6G-IA and ATIS NextG Alliance joint report recommendations, summarized in this blog post, provide guidance on a joint transatlantic research roadmap to ensure leadership. As a pivotal partner and leader in the wireless technology sector, Ericsson remains committed to enhancing the transatlantic 6G journey and fostering enduring partnerships.
The forthcoming TTC 5, at the end of January, and the forthcoming TTC 6 expected in the first half of 2024, provide clear opportunities for leaders to ensure continued progress in transatlantic 6G research cooperation.
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