Expert Groups Devising 6G Targets – Writing Process of New 6G White Papers on the Final Stretch
6G Flagship is pursuing a brave challenge to formulate a research vision for 6G mobile communications together with esteemed experts around the globe. White papers were chosen as a suitable format for refining experts’ views and alternative scenarios in the 6G domain.
After publishing world’s first 6G white paper in September 2019 as an outcome of the first 6G Wireless Summit, the visionaries in 6G Flagship wanted to reach much higher in the second round. A full dozen topics were filtered for a profound analysis.
“This time we wanted to dive much deeper by selecting 12 particular areas of interest needing more detailed envisioning and target setting,” says professor Matti Latva-aho, Director of 6G Flagship, who leads the preparation of the new white papers. “We wanted to add more openness and engage a larger number of leading experts in making this joint effort to pave the way towards 6G.”
6G Flagship released an open call for the 12 expert groups in November 2019. “Participation to the expert groups was open to anyone and not tied to 6G Wireless Summit participation,” Latva-aho says. “This way we succeeded in engaging 350 experts around the world for the white paper drafting which was a great result.”
Expert group members joined the writing process on a voluntary basis starting from January 2020. “Expert groups have developed critical KPIs for 6G and envisioned key research questions in different areas,” Latva-aho says. “At this stage, we chose not to fixate our thinking on narrow solutions or complete system models. Instead, we wanted to cultivate out-of-the-box thinking and discuss broadly about the most promising and even surprising combinations of technology components needed to make 6G a reality.”
Several draft white papers, which are available in arXiv starting from 30 April, address technical enablers for 6G and present a set of key research questions. The scope is quite broad covering broadband connectivity, remote area connectivity, machine type communications, localization & sensing, security & privacy, machine learning, edge intelligence, networking, RF & spectrum, business models, validation & trials as well as UN SDGs influencing 6G development.
A multi-disciplinary approach on solving future challenges of the highly digitized society is clearly visible in several white papers. After all, there is a global consensus that 6G research should be aligned with the UN SDGs as a fundamental driver as both the technology leap and the develop goals target the year 2030. Business aspects are not forgotten either, as one white paper develops scenarios for the business of 6G considering key trends and depicting novel 6G digital service providers stemming from redefined sustainable economics.
The work of the expert groups shows that 6G research is still a collection of ideas, some of which are very promising while others are still strongly hampered by 5G thinking. “At this stage, we perceive that is pivotal to debate on relevant views with an open and daring mindset so that we can create a reliable base line that spurs research on multiple threads,” Latva-aho says. “With this set-up, we can expect to maximize the potential for scientific breakthroughs.”
The outcomes of the expert groups are quite remarkable taking into consideration that the draft white papers were prepared in just three months through a series of online meetings that the individual expert groups held. “Due to COVID-19, we had to cancel the physical event planned to take place during the 2nd 6G Wireless Summit which influenced the schedules of the expert groups,” Latva-aho says. “The amount of voluntary work that the community has put into these draft white papers, in these demanding circumstances, makes us very grateful and proud.”
During the next two months, the draft white papers will be edited for consistency before final publication towards end of June 2020. “The draft white papers, which are now available for the 6G community, will undergo a major alignment so that we can harmonize the concepts and terminologies to present a clear vision on various aspects of 6G,” says Dr. Marja Matinmikko-Blue, Research Coordinator of 6G Flagship, who coordinates the writing process of the white papers. “This process is a great exercise as we bring experts together to innovate on targets and alternative solutions. In this working mode, researchers and developers will have to rely on their expertise and hunch as none of us can yet rely on actual results, as we usually do. We will polish the white papers in content, graphics, and layout before they appear in June so that they will be a joy to read.”
The path towards 6G is becoming clearer as the open innovation progresses. “As a next step, we hope to make a serious effort in drafting a first version of requirements specification for IMT-2030,” Latva-aho concludes. “In our current thinking, we are aiming towards early 2021.”