Q&A with leader of Finland’s 6G Flagship Program
Finland is among the first countries in the world to kick off research on future 6G technologies, which are forecast to appear in 2030. To know more about Finland’s efforts towards 6G, RCR Wireless News interviewed Matti Latva-aho, Academy Professor and Director of 6G Flagship program.
Q: Who are the current members of the Academy of Finland’s flagship program and what specific areas of research had been stipulated?
A:The Finnish 6G Flagship is a vigorous research and co-creation ecosystem for 5G adoption and 6G innovation led by the University of Oulu and appointed by the Academy of Finland, a governmental funding agency for high-quality scientific research. In the beginning of the program, five collaboration partners were named including Aalto University, Business Oulu, Nokia, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. Currently, two more companies have joined as company co-creators including Keysight Technologies and InterDigital. Additionally, MoUs are being signed with other collaborators.
As 5G enters its deployment phase, 6G Flagship supports global industry in the finalization of the 5G standard especially through joint projects, trials and demonstrations. At the same time, 6G Flagship experts are already working on essential technology components and solutions needed for the 2030 wireless era. The research within 6G Flagship is organized into four interrelated strategic research areas: wireless connectivity, device and circuit technologies, distributed intelligent computing, and novel applications and services. Major scientific breakthroughs are sought in all of them.
Q: When do you consider that 6G technology will be a reality and what would be the main future uses of this technology?
A: 6G Flagship envisions a future society towards 2030, which is data-driven and enabled by near instant, unlimited wireless connectivity. 6G will emerge around 2030 to satisfy the expectations not met with 5G, as well as, the new ones fusing AI inspired applications in every field of society with ubiquitous wireless connectivity.
Main future uses of 6G are foreseen to take place in different verticals that 5G has already started to address. There will be very high capacity short-range solutions as well as solutions addressing the challenges of remote and rural areas.
Q: What would be the main drivers and the main challenges for this future technology?
A: 6G Flagship aims at solidifying a global 6G research vision which takes into account future productivity and quality of service demands, among others, but also focuses on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) as major drivers. For this purpose, 6G Flagship builds a wide 6G ecosystem with its stakeholders to address how 6G can act as an enabler to help in meeting the SDGs and how 6G development should take the SDGs into account already in the research and development phase.
Many challenges arise from technical, regulation and business perspectives in the development of 6G. Operations in higher carrier frequencies and increasing use of data lead to new questions on who can use the data or who can use spectrum in the new 6G ecosystem with changing stakeholder roles.
Q: What are the main goals of the Flagship program? Does it have a specific timeline to produce reports or technical conclusions?
A: 6G Flagship is an eight-year program, which was launched in May 2018. The main goals of 6G Flagship are to support companies in finalization of the 5G standard by carrying out technology and system pilots, to develop the fundamental technology components to enable 6G systems, and to speed up dependable, robust and secure digitalisation of society via 5G and 6G. These three themes are running in parallel.
6G Flagship results are documented into a total of 838 peer-reviewed scientific publications so far from the launch of the program. 6G Flagship produces reports for the Academy of Finland every two years, but the reports are for internal evaluation only. In September 2019, 6G Flagship published a 6G white paper based on a workshop held in the first 6G Wireless Summit 2019 describing the 6G vision and key research questions for the development of 6G. The paper provides a focus for the major research challenges and helps in setting up the research agenda for the new decade. Now 6G Flagship experts are leading 12 experts groups producing 12 new white papers, which will be available for initial viewing by the end of April. All topics have their roots in the previous white paper. One expert group works on the linkage between 6G and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and another focuses on connectivity for remote areas. Both groups reflect major societal challenges. One expert group develops business scenarios for 6G. The remaining groups are more technical and cover validation and trials, broadband connectivity, networking, machine learning, RF and spectrum, edge intelligence, security and privacy, critical and massive machine type communications, and localization and sensing.
Q: How this program will be financed and who are providing this financing? Which are the tech partners in this program?
A: The program is appointed by Academy of Finland and receives direct funding from it. Additionally, externally funded projects totaling 223 projects by the end of 2019 are included in the 6G Flagship program. Including University of Oulu’s own funding, the total budget for the eight-year Flagship program is 251 million euros. So far, 75 companies have invested in 6G Flagship’s research portfolio.
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