Japanese telco SoftBank announced its “6G” concept, as well as the challenges that need to be overcome to make the concept a reality.
According to the Asian carrier, as-yet-unstandardized, future 6G systems are expected to bring new technological innovations, including high reliability and improved energy efficiency. To provide a network infrastructure needed for the 6G era society, SoftBank said it is taking up the challenge of resolving numerous issues in different areas. Working toward that goal, SoftBank’s current initiatives include expanding into areas where wireless technologies can be utilized for purposes other than telecommunications such as, evolving network architectures where AI can function, ensuring high levels of resiliency so that all businesses can utilize these advancements.
“Up to 4G, mobile networks were designed for smartphone usage. After 5G, the advent of 6G will transform mobile networks into network infrastructure that will support the digitalization of all industries. With 6G, every business across Japan will be built on the foundation of mobile networks, just as the Internet became the sole common basic infrastructure for online communications around the world,” said Ryuji Wakikawa, VP and head of the advanced technology division at SoftBank.
“The Internet will be utilized to build a virtual digital space, with mobile networks connecting base stations and devices. In this way, digital and physical spaces will be connected in real time. What is predicted and judged in the virtual space using AI will be fed back to the physical space with ultra-low latency. Not only will 6G networks serve as communication networks; they will also evolve into computers that support an AI society,” Wakikawa added.
The executive also noted that edge compute will be deployed everywhere in Japan, and these computing locations will be capable of AI and other types of server processing. “These computers will establish a high-quality, end-to-end communications environment connected to networks in highly sophisticated ways. If AI is the trigger for the next Industrial Revolution, 6G will be the telecommunications infrastructure that makes it happen.”
SoftBank also noted that it had started research and development of potential 6G technologies such as High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) and terahertz communication back in 2017. “By flying base stations in the stratosphere, HAPS systems are capable of receiving and transmitting radio waves over an area stretching as far as 200km in diameter, as well as into the airspace above. As such, HAPS is expected to be a key technology for expanding communication area coverage. We have already successfully completed a communications test in the stratosphere, spearheaded initiatives to standardize HAPS frequency bands, established a global industry alliance, among other achievements,” Wakikawa said. “Furthermore, as part of our efforts to expand frequency usage, we are working on the terahertz range beyond millimeter-wave with the aim of applying these frequencies for telecommunications. New possibilities will open for wireless networks to be used at data centers, such as wireless communications between racks and servers, when we achieve telecommunications faster than fiber-optic cables and reach communication speeds in excess of several hundreds of gigabytes per second.”
SoftBank also unveiled two initiatives as specific examples of its undertakings to realize 6G services. This first one is an R&D project involving “Moving Terahertz” for smartphones. This initiative focuses on expanding frequency ranges that will enable SoftBank to provide commercial services using the terahertz band for mobile communications.
The second involves SoftBank’s initiatives to establish HAPS technologies, and the communications equipment that was used in a stratospheric flight test was displayed. Also on display is a cylinder antenna currently under development and a demonstration of rotating connector technology. Both technologies are essential for realizing footprint fixation technologies to control communications areas, which will be necessary to provide stable communication services with HAPS.