Beyond 5G - Toward 6G Forum 2022

The Center for Wireless Communications (CWC) (cwc.ucsd.eduat UC San Diego held its 10th annual  Beyond 5G – Toward 6G Forum, on November 30 and December 1, 2022.

Back in person again after two years of virtual events, the Center for Wireless Communications (CWC) at UC San Diego held its 10th annual Beyond 5G – Toward 6G Forum November 30–December 1, 2022 in Atkinson Hall at the Qualcomm Institute, bringing together a variety of experts to share and discuss the results of cutting-edge research in circuits, sensing, communication, and networking technology development. This year, the forum also explored two new timely topics in response to member interest and demand: the role big data and AI will play in 6G networks and devices and the importance of making 6G networks energy efficient and sustainable.

“In 2022, there was a noticeable increase in interest and a sense of urgency from member companies to do something about power consumption, energy efficiency, and sustainable communications,” said CWC Director Sujit Dey. “The overall mood is that everything that can be done should be done to stop climate change. That mood has been building for some time.”

Network energy efficiency discussions involved various stakeholders, including representatives from working groups, such as the IEEE 5G Roadmap Energy Efficiency Working Group and the GreenG Working Group, which did not exist ten years ago but are now important contributors in the future planning of sustainable 6G networks. Topics covered included not only discussions of power consumption and use of sustainable resources, but also assessment of other environmental impacts, such as materials consumption, and the possibility of a new mechanism for technical and business analysis of networks that can be standardized for all stakeholders.

According to Dey, the wireless network of the future will no longer consist of a collection of big macro towers. Instead, it will be everywhwere, in buildings, on the roadside, and in automobiles. Therefore, one approach to sustainability is to make the communications hardware of these components more energy efficient and use reusable energy to power the hardware. Toward these goals, CWC has been testing ways to use wind and solar energy. Their prototypes have shown that wind and solar can, indeed, be used to power small cell stations. 

“6G base stations are likely to be mostly smaller, less power-hunger in size so they can be powered by sustainable energy,” said Dey. “Another advantage of smaller cells is that they are nimble and can be placed anywhere, including remote and rural areas.”

The key to achieving climate friendly networks may also lie in another timely topic explored at the forum: AI and the use of big data. Forum participants agreed that networks, like everything else, are going to become more and more autonomous, which is necessary for scalability. Therefore, use of AI in 6G networks will be the trend based on sheer economics. In unison with that, the rapid advancement of wireless computing and sensing capabilities is driving a need for big data analysis and pervasive computing. Addressing these topics, speakers looked at the evolution of data fusion, shared use cases enabled by wireless technology, and gave presentations on the use of neural detectors for MIMO systems and deploying AI in RANs to boost performance and energy efficiency. These and other developments are creating an opening for a paradigm shift in the way networks are evaluated and used. Recently, CWC began a project investigating the use of data and AI in future wireless networks. Although it is still in the early stages, the project is exploring the role of security and trust, as well as the possibility of AI enabling network users to benefit from the massive amounts of data available through communication networks.

“For the longest time, communication networks have been seen as pipes [for data] with various pricing schemes based on how many bytes are being used or how fast data is traveling,” said Dey. “What I imagine is that the key performance indicators will completely change. That networks will provide data intelligence as an integral part of the service.”

The topics covered at this year’s forum were very much a reflection of CWC’s master goals and offered a platform to share its vision of proving sustainable concepts using CWC testbeds and then inspiring adoption of new technology and techniques through discussions and collaborations with stakeholders. The goal of sustainable, net-zero networks is a journey that CWC intends to take over the next 5–10 years, building on its relationships with the City of Chula Vista, the City of Carlsbad, and the City of San Diego to bring more policy makers into the discussion.

“I hope that CWC is at the forefront of not just the research and development of new technology, but also in leading the discussions of what can be done,” said Dey. “I want to position CWC in the coming years to where we are really working hard toward sustainable communications and are looking at data and AI as an integral part of the network, so that networks can provide more than just communications, computing or sensing.”

We are busy now preparing for an even more exciting Forum the fall of 2023. Stay tuned!

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