The last few years have seen the fifth generation of wireless technology come to the fore – 5G. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to augmented reality and autonomous driving, 5G wireless networks have brought automation to an array of industries. For example, the technology provides the scalability and reliability necessary to support the countless smart devices and sensors used in the manufacturing sector, while retailers use it to enhance the customer experience, efficiently manage supply chains and logistics, and reduce operating costs.
Although 5G may still be in its infancy currently, it is being used to help usher in several further emerging technologies. Nowhere is this more apparent than the role 5G has played in advancing the technology ecosystem to 6G. The sixth generation of wireless technology is set to seamlessly merge physical, digital, and human worlds into one, providing an immersive sensory experience.
However, the evolution from 5G to 6G is likely to be complex, making it critical for organisations to lay the groundwork for successful deployment. In order to ensure a smooth journey when it comes to advancing from 5G to 6G over the course of the next decade, there is a crucial stage for all businesses to pass — 5G Advanced.
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The importance of 5G Advanced
Within the next three to five years, the expectation is that 5G Advanced networks will start to be deployed. The technology will extend wireless connectivity to nearly every aspect of human and machine interaction. Once it becomes readily available, 5G Advanced is likely to pave the way for greater wireless capabilities that have the capacity to expand connectivity and introduce a variety of innovative, ground-breaking services for enterprise customers.
For instance, the technology will improve basic radio and system performance, in addition to enabling new types of devices to use mobile broadband, facilitating important new use cases. Via the introduction of enhanced intelligence solutions such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) into the network, 5G Advanced will be able to adapt to whatever environment it’s operating in. It will also support immersive extended reality (XR) experiences, edge computing applications, and exciting developments in IoT related to more efficient and effective manufacturing, farming, and health-related services.
All of this investment will be vital for the eventual move to 6G, with the commercial launch of this expected to take place around 2030. The mobile communications sector will need to establish further industry standards so as to overcome key technical concerns. This will require extensive planning and will ensure the industry meets more stringent end-to-end latency, jitter, and synchronisation requirements across a wide range of applications. This includes remote medicine and telesurgery, autonomous transportation, and both smart cities and factories.
One area which is expected to become more advanced with the advent of 6G is the metaverse — a digital world that will embrace interconnectivity for digital engagements such as training, system testing, and entertainment. Research predicts that by 2027, the metaverse will make up an estimated 70 per cent of annual media traffic growth. Carriers have already started to engage with metaverse platform vendors, working with them to create experiences in a variety of service areas, including device testing, front of house, and training. By the time 6G is rolled out, carriers’ contributions to the metaverse are likely to go beyond simply connectivity — they will enable edge services such as network slicing and establishing successful and profitable business outcomes.
For 6G to be a roaring success, it’ll have to deliver high data rates alongside low latency, in addition to meeting stringent bidirectional reliability requirements across numerous devices with a response time as close to zero as possible.
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Assuring next services generation
Service assurance for the next generation of wireless devices and solutions will require a high degree of automation, which will be required for a wide range of tasks — from troubleshooting misconfigurations to cybersecurity defence and mitigation. Cloud-based AI tools will provide operators with a better understanding regarding the root cause of issues, supporting teams when it comes to stopping those issues from proliferating.
In order to support mission- and business-critical solutions and emerging applications, operators will need to assure services for next-generation networks. The complex nature of a future 6G network, coupled with the demands on service assurance, will necessitate the use of advanced, AI-powered automation. If this assistance was not in place, the probability of unacceptable customer experience would increase substantially.
Highly scalable monitoring solutions already developed for the cloud, will play a vital role in successfully delivering actionable insights into the reliability and latency of future 6G networks, applications and services. This puts organisations in the position to future-proof their networks immediately.
Ted Curtis is senior engineer at NETSCOUT.
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