RESTART’s contribution to a European vision on use cases for 6G

/ May 28, 2024/ News, Other news

With the standardization of sixth-generation (6G) cellular networks scheduled to begin in 2025, it is critical to define a set of new use cases and key performance indicators (KPIs) to guide their development.

In this context, the RESTART program participated in the activity promoted by the 6G Smart Networks and Services Industry Association (SNS 6G-IA), aimed at achieving a European-level consensus on use cases for 6G and proposing them in May this year to the 3GPP SA1 standardization group (which defines the radio specifications for 3GPP, a reference for manufacturers, operators, and industry developers) during the IMT 2030 Workshop.

The SNS 6G-IA solicited inputs from European stakeholders to give a European view on use cases for 6G, and in addition to a number of European projects, only three nations participated through their own research programs, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, the latter through the RESTART program.

What are use cases and why do they matter?

As users, we are accustomed to hearing about generations of the cellular network (from the second generation, the first digital, 2G of the 1990s to the current 5G of the years from 2020), but in reality networks evolve gradually through releases that introduce, about every couple of years, new aspects that subsequently find application in the infrastructure with timing depending on the operators’ ability to innovate their equipment. For example, Release 19 (also called 5G Advanced) is currently under discussion to be available in 2025, and work will follow on the first releases toward 6G, which is expected to be commercialized in the 2030s. Approximately every decade, in fact, the accumulated innovations in network and radio access are significant enough to increase the number of the reference generation (in this case from 5G to 6G).

The technical specifications of cellular networks, becoming an ecosystem, must be such that they meet requirements dictated by KPIs in various scenarios described in the use cases. In addition to KPIs, networks must also quantify the impact that their technological evolution brings to society, the economy, the environment, and other macro sectors, thus complementing KPIs with key value indicators (KVIs).

The challenges of new scenario definitions, KPIs, and KVIs (in short, use cases) push the technological evolution toward 6G by going beyond just using the network for communication to also addressing localization and sensing.

In the above context, the RESTART program has contributed to the revision of scenarios proposed by the flagship, innovating them, with a focus on scenarios and KPIs associated with localization and sensing (tracking, classification, and recognition of the actions carried by people, objects, and vehicles that reflect electromagnetic waves in the environment by their presence).

On the one hand, 6G is expected to enable a multitude of services also based on location and context awareness, with increasingly challenging KPIs even in scenarios of high mobility and challenging wireless propagation (e.g., industrial environments). On the other hand, location awareness will enable more efficient and sustainable management of radio and network resources, even in anticipation of the use of new frequency bands for 6G, while sensing will enable greater control of the environment and resources, as well as fragile assistance, including  behavior information of individuals, objects, and vehicles in different areas.

SNS 6G-IA will propose use cases for 6G grouped into families ranging from fully connected world to trusted environments, from immersive experiences to collaborative robots, and from physical awareness to digital twins.

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