6G Technology – Features, Applications, Bharat 6G Vision

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India is actively striving to establish itself as a global telecommunications frontrunner, despite having introduced commercial 5G services just last October. This ambitious pursuit includes collaborations such as the partnership between Indian Telecom Jio and the University of Oulu to advance 6G technology. Additionally, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in India is actively soliciting feedback regarding the potential utilization of the 95GHz-3THz spectrum, which holds promise for future 6G advancements.

6g technology mind map

This topic of “6G Technology – Features, Applications, Bharat 6G Vision” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

I. Evolution of wireless technology and the emergence of 6G

Evolution of Wireless Technology

  • The journey of wireless network technology began over 100 years ago, with significant advancements made since 1880.
  • The discovery of radio waves led to the development of the telegraph and mobile phones.
  • The first wireless Transatlantic message was sent in 1901 between Britain and Canada.
  • The discovery of FM frequencies in 1922, along with the portable radio, laid the groundwork for future developments.
  • The development of Ethernet and high-speed packet transmissions was supported by this framework in 1970.
  • The famed mobile phone from Motorola, which led to the 1G network, came onto the scene in 1983.
  • The 3G network became available in 2001, almost seven years before the first iPhone.
  • After more than two years of testing, the 4G or LTE network was launched in 2007.
  • Intel brought the 5G network to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.

Emergence of 6G

  • 6G, or sixth-generation technology, is the planned successor to 5G and is currently in development by numerous companies, research institutes, and countries.
  • 6G networks are expected to be significantly faster than previous generations and are likely to support applications beyond current mobile use scenarios, such as ubiquitous instant communications, pervasive intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • The Next G Alliance outlined the development roadmap of 6G in a report in February 2022.
  • As of 2023, no universally-accepted standards exist that specify the components of the technology, but systems are expected to be deployed by 2028.
  • The frequency bands for 6G are undetermined, but frequencies from 100 GHz to 3 THz are promising bands for the next generation of wireless communication systems.
  • Millimeter waves and terahertz radiation might be used in 6G.
  • On November 6, 2020, China launched a Long March 6 rocket with a payload of thirteen satellites into orbit. One of the satellites reportedly served as an experimental testbed for 6G technology, which was described as “the world’s first 6G satellite.”

II. 6G: Key features and advancements

Terahertz frequency bands

  • 6G networks are expected to operate in the terahertz (THz) frequency bands, specifically in the range of 0.3 to 10 THz.
  • This is a significant shift from the sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave bands used in 5G networks.
  • The use of these higher frequency bands will enable 6G to provide faster data rates, potentially up to 1 Tbps.
  • However, achieving such high data rates is challenging due to the need for large continuous bandwidths and the trade-off between spectral efficiency and the required signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for detection.
  • The higher the required SNR, the shorter the respective range becomes due to transmitted power limitations at high frequencies as well as added noise.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning integration

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are expected to be integral parts of 6G networks.
  • These technologies will be used to manage the expected increase in connected devices, enabling higher download speeds and preserving low latency.
  • The full support of AI/ML for automation by design in 6G will be revolutionary.
  • 6G networks are expected to support centralized high-performance computing (HPC) and bring that form of computing to the end terminals.
  • The use of HPC will provide 6G networks with the ability to not only be intelligent but self-sufficient.

Enhanced network slicing

  • Network slicing is a technology that allows for the creation of multiple logically-isolated virtual networks (i.e., slices) for different services on top of the common physical network.
  • In 6G networks, network slicing is expected to evolve and play an increasingly important role.
  • An AI-native network slicing architecture is proposed for 6G networks to facilitate intelligent network management while supporting emerging AI services.
  • This architecture aims at integrating space-air-ground integrated networks and ubiquitous intelligence and supporting diverse services with stringent quality of service (QoS) requirements.

Improved localization and positioning

  • 6G networks are expected to provide improved localization and positioning capabilities.
  • This will be particularly important for applications such as autonomous vehicles and drones, which require precise positioning information.
  • However, the specific technologies and methods that will be used to achieve this improved localization and positioning in 6G networks are still under research and development.

Advanced sensing capabilities

  • 6G is expected to tap into the world of sensing, imaging, wireless cognition, and precise positioning.
  • One significant change of 6G to previous communication generations is it will include non-terrestrial networks, which enables conventional 2D network architectures to function in 3D space.
  • This will be a significant enabler for future IoT systems and applications, as it will provide full-dimensional wireless coverage and integrate all functionality, including sensing, transmission, computation, cognition, and fully automated control.
4G vs 5G vs 6G comparison
4G vs 5G vs 6G comparison

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III. 6G and India: Bharat 6G Vision

Objectives and Goals

  • Bharat 6G Vision aims to design, develop, and deploy 6G network technologies that provide ubiquitous, intelligent, and secure connectivity for a high-quality living experience worldwide.
  • The vision is based on principles of affordability, sustainability, and ubiquity, aligning with India’s national vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).
  • The 6G mission will be completed in two phases: the first phase from 2023 to 2025, and the second phase from 2026 to 2030.

Research and Development Initiatives

  • The Indian government has formed the Technology Innovation Group on 6G (TIG-6G) to develop the Bharat 6G Vision.
  • TIG-6G comprises members from various ministries, departments, research institutions, academia, standardization bodies, and telecom service providers.
  • The group focuses on identifying priority areas for 6G research and fostering innovation, capacity building, and faster technology adoption.

Collaboration between Government, Academia, and Industry

  • The Bharat 6G Alliance (B6GA) is a collaborative platform consisting of public and private companies, academia, research institutions, and standards development organizations.
  • B6GA aims to bring together Indian startups, companies, and the manufacturing ecosystem to establish consortia that drive the design, development, and deployment of 6G technologies in India.
  • The alliance seeks to position India at the forefront of 6G innovation by accelerating standards-related patent creation within the country and actively contributing to international standardization organizations such as 3GPP and ITU.

IV. Potential Applications of 6G in India

Smart Cities and Infrastructure

  • 6G technology is expected to revolutionize the concept of smart cities in India. With its ability to support millions of devices simultaneously, it is an ideal technology for applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, and smart cities.
  • The 6G network is expected to be 100 times faster than the current 5G network, offering data speeds of up to 1 terabyte per second. This will enable seamless connectivity and data transfer, enhancing the efficiency of smart city operations.
  • The integration of space-based and ground-based cellular networks can ensure full-coverage broadband services for users in smart cities.
  • 6G can also enable smart infrastructure for sustainable society, presenting opportunities, challenges, and a research roadmap for the future.

Agriculture and Rural Development

  • 6G technology can meet the demand for communication in rural areas and high-resolution imagery, expanding the range of IoT applications in agriculture.
  • It can enable space-air-ground-integrated networks, which are suitable for remote areas and large areas, satisfying the needs of large-scale and highly complex agricultural activities.
  • Terahertz waves, a feature of 6G technology, can be used for pest detection, food safety detection, and water quality monitoring, thus enhancing the efficiency and safety of agricultural practices.
  • Reconfigurable Intelligent Surface (RIS), another feature of 6G, can aid communication in rural areas and enable precise agricultural sensing activities.

Healthcare and Telemedicine

  • 6G technology can have a major impact on healthcare, providing tools and opportunities for changes in how healthcare is provided.
  • A high-speed, low-latency connection of 6G allows for medical images and other data to be transmitted quickly and accurately, which can be especially important in emergency situations.
  • It can enable real-time remote monitoring of patients who have chronic illnesses or who need constant follow-up.
  • The Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT), enabled by advanced 5G or 6G, can connect devices and design solutions related to medical patient care.

Education and Remote Learning

  • The high-speed, low-latency features of 6G can enhance the quality of remote learning by enabling real-time interaction between teachers and students.
  • It can support the use of advanced educational technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), providing immersive learning experiences for students.
  • The wide coverage of 6G can ensure that students in remote areas also have access to quality education.

Industry 4.0 and Automation

  • 6G can enable the integration of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing, which are key components of Industry 4.0.
  • It can support the use of autonomous robots and automated systems in industries, enhancing productivity and efficiency.
  • The high-speed, low-latency features of 6G can enable real-time data analysis and decision-making, which are crucial for the success of Industry 4.0.
6G applications

V. Challenges and Obstacles in 6G Implementation

Technological Limitations and Spectrum Allocation

  • The exploitation of the Terahertz frequency band for communication in 6G is technologically challenging due to high propagation loss, poor penetration, and significant molecular absorption.
  • The Terahertz frequency band, ranging from 100GHz to 10THz, will be exploited in the 6G era. This wide bandwidth has never been used before, which means it can be exploited without limitations.
  • However, it is estimated that the Terahertz in the 6G era will face problems similar to the millimeter wave today: weak coverage capability, high cost of deploying the network, and the premature ecosystem of terminals.
  • The radio spectrum, currently used by mobile operators for telecommunication, will not only be used for communication in the 6G era but also for sensor and location functions, providing services like communication, environment perception, and location tracing.
  • The sharing technology of dynamic spectrum will be studied in the 6G era. Introducing AI, blockchain, and relevant technologies, the wireless industry is trying to control and distribute the spectrum more intelligently and flexibly.

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

  • As networks become more complex and powerful, energy consumption issues become critical. With the massive increase in data rates, the energy consumption of network infrastructure could become unsustainable.
  • The focus of 6G sustainability is shifting from energy efficiency to net zero. The goal is to embed sustainability into 6G from the very start, integrating it in research, standardization, design, production, and operation.
  • Machine learning could be used to orchestrate when things are turned off based on traffic, which could help in energy conservation. However, there is concern that energy saved by AI and machine learning may be less than that consumed during the training of those technologies.

Security, Privacy, and Trust Issues

  • The hyper-connected nature of the network in 6G, combined with the integration of AI and other technologies, significantly increases the potential attack surface. Therefore, novel security mechanisms and privacy-preserving methods are needed.
  • Network security plays a crucial role in the evolution of the digital economy. Entering into the 6G era, Post-quantum Cryptography (PQC) as well as Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and other technologies will be applied in the network to ensure absolute network security.

Regulatory and Standardization Challenges

  • 6G is projected to include various technologies, services, and applications, which will inevitably bring about regulatory and standardization challenges that need to be addressed.
  • The telecom industry needs to address several issues before seeing the success of 6G. The difficulties are not only in THz technology but also in identifying applications that will fuel 6G adoption.

VI. Opportunities and Benefits of 6G for India

Integration of Various Industries

  • 6G technology holds the potential to revolutionize communication, connectivity, and various industries by offering a range of advanced features and capabilities.
  • The technology is expected to bring transformative impact, including ultra-high data rates and AR/VR e-meetings.
  • It is anticipated to facilitate multi-device interfaces, ubiquitous computing, multi-sensory fusion, precision sensing, low-power devices, and standalone networks.
  • The vision highlights the role of 6G in transforming agriculture through precision farming and real-time monitoring of crops and livestock.
  • It also envisions smart factories with real-time production optimization and predictive maintenance.

Societal Impact and Digital Inclusion

  • 6G is expected to support social and economic development and digital inclusion.
  • It can improve the quality of life, productivity, and well-being of people.
  • The technology is expected to cater to the specific needs and challenges of India such as rural connectivity, digital literacy, and digital inclusion.
  • It is also expected to align with India’s national priorities such as healthcare, education, agriculture, energy, etc.

Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection

  • 6G aims to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact of wireless communication.
  • It is expected to support sustainable initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint.
  • The technology opens new sustainability opportunities for the agricultural sector.

Global Competitiveness and Intellectual Property Creation

  • India has a great opportunity to develop some IP over the next five years and leverage the ongoing conversations about 6G.
  • A significant contribution to the 6G standardization will boost the domestic industry as well as India’s standing in the global telecom industry.
  • India aims to not only adopt 6G but also shape its evolution by becoming a leading global supplier of intellectual property, products, and solutions of affordable 6G telecom solutions.

VII. Conclusion: Embracing the 6G Revolution

Collaborative Efforts between Government, Academia, and Industry

  • The development and deployment of 6G technology require a strong collaboration between government, academia, and industry to drive innovation, research, and standardization.
  • Initiatives like the Bharat 6G Alliance in India and the Next G Alliance in North America are examples of collaborative platforms that bring together stakeholders to work on 6G research and development.

Fostering Innovation and Research in 6G Technologies

  • 6G research is already underway in various countries, with governments and organizations investing in the development of new technologies and applications.
  • Research initiatives like the BMBF 6G Research Initiative in Germany and the NSF’s Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation Systems (RINGS) program in the United States are examples of efforts to advance 6G technologies.

Ensuring Accessibility, Affordability, and Security for All Users

  • 6G technology aims to provide ubiquitous connectivity, ensuring that users in both urban and rural areas have access to high-speed internet and advanced services.
  • The focus on security and privacy in 6G is crucial to protect users’ data and ensure trust in the network.
  • Efforts to make 6G technology affordable and accessible to all users will help bridge the digital divide and promote digital inclusion.

Practice Question for Mains

Discuss the potential impact of 6G technology on various sectors in India, including agriculture, healthcare, and education. (250 words)

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