It is happening again. Every ten years the mobile networking community falls in love with the idea of a new network generation. Now it is 6G. 10x more capacity, 10x reduced latency, new frequency bands. A fresh start with many inspiring new use cases. Like we saw it with 5G and 4G and 3G.
This time it could go terribly wrong. Imagine there is a new G and nobody cares. Vendors build proof-of-concepts and network operators do some tire-kicking, but nobody commits to large roll-outs. Since the days of 3G growing mobile data traffic has been the driver for network modernization and the creation of new sophisticated radio interfaces that are not backwards compatible with the current “G”. Now the projected annual growth of mobile data traffic has dropped below 25%. Ten years ago it was 50%. There are natural limits to smartphone subscriptions and video consumption it seems.
We think 6G should be something else than more data for the masses and it should make it possible to drop some of the dead weight inherited from GSM times. That is why Poutanet is now actively contributing to the 6G debate.
Some of the key topics we want to see:
Low absolute energy consumption (not just the per bit improvements)
Simplified system with optional core (as system resilience, efficiency and many use cases would benefit)
Alternative to the current symmetric SIM authentication (as this is one of the cornerstones of the centralised mobile core.)
In short: We want 6G to support a decentralized deployment to the extent possible.
In 6G World blog posts (6G design targets, 6G design targets part 2) Heikki Almay discussed the most common topics associated with 6G. This is a good recap of topics carried over from 5G. Some of the more controversial approaches are presented in the 6G - Fitting the Market Needs of the 2030s post and the Decentralized 6G And The End of Roaming contribution.
Martti Ylikoski participates in the energy aware 6G project Eware-6G steering. Energy is important for us, as in many of the African countries the small networks we are discussing have to come with off-grid solar. With battery costs exceeding those of base stations you may conclude that power saving has not been very high on the agenda - except of course for the hand sets where battery life has been a major design criteria.
It still takes some years for 6G to take shape. In the meantime at Poutanet we are busy working towards the above 6G design goals by optimising small 4G and 5G networks. We have our solar powered test network in Rajamäki. With Roam Networks we demonstrated moving the user identification from the SIM to a crypto wallet. Networks that start operating out-of-the-box are the norm. We do as we preach.
If you are interested in hearing more or demos, please drop an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.