How 6G Research Will Revolutionize Mobile Experiences

AI will be used in just about every subsystem of 6G networks.


By 2030, 6G is expected to be commercially available, revolutionizing connectivity with lightning-fast speeds, unprecedented bandwidths, and ultra-low latencies. It will transform various sectors, including telecommunications, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, and entertainment.

In this article, get a glimpse of the 6G world coming to us over the next decade, and explore the 6G research initiatives that are enabling these next-generation capabilities.

What are the anticipated use cases and applications driving 6G research?

In its International Mobile Telecommunications 2030 (IMT-2030) initiative, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has laid out its vision for the sixth generation of wireless communications (6G) that will be available commercially starting around 2030.

At the same time, several industry groups have also published their 6G visions, including the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN), the 6G Flagship, and the Next G Alliance.

The use cases and applications for next-generation communication technologies envisioned by these organizations are summarized below.

Ubiquitous connectivity

Under 6G, improved inclusivity and bridging of the digital divide are pivotal social objectives. Voice, video, and broadband services will be available even in remote areas and disaster zones through advances beyond 5G, such as better non-terrestrial networks, airborne and space-borne base station swarms, and mesh access networks.

Immersive personal digital experiences

Network bandwidths of 50-200 gigabits per second (Gbps) are expected, perhaps even one terabit per second (Tbps). With per-device throughputs of 300-500 megabits per second (Mbps) and microsecond latencies, users will enjoy rich communication and digital experiences through immersive high-resolution video calls, extended reality displays, and remote telepresence through multi-sensory and holographic interfaces.

Joint communications and sensing

The sub-terahertz frequencies being considered under 6G will enable combining communication signals with waveforms that resemble those of imaging radars. The same antennas, transceivers, and spectrum can be reused for both communications and sensing, enabling use cases like using smartphones for autonomous driving or for detecting people in low-visibility rescue missions.


Automobile companies are actively researching and prototyping the use of 6G technologies for improved autonomous driving systems, real-time data processing, vehicle-to-everything communication, and advanced sensing capabilities.

Additionally, thanks to their reliability, time-sensitive networking features, and ultra-low latencies, 6G wireless networks are being considered as replacements for existing wired automotive networks. This will also reduce vehicle weights and improve sustainability through higher fuel efficiency.

Industrial-scale communications

Expect widespread public and private networks with extensive use of internet-of-things (IoT) devices for smart cities, agriculture, transportation, energy grids, and environmental monitoring. This will be possible due to high connection densities of 1 million to 100 million devices per square kilometer (km), high reliability, adaptive data rates, low power consumption, extended coverage, and high security.

6G-networked robots and automated vehicles will be extensively used in factories, warehouses, and logistics.

Precise positioning

Indoor and outdoor positioning with accuracies of 1-10 centimeters (cm) will enable precise object and presence detection, navigation, imaging​, and mapping.


The research and development into 6G networks explicitly aim for sustainability goals like high energy efficiency, low carbon footprint, and low emissions in telecom infrastructure as well as all the other industries they bolster, like manufacturing, automotive, and farming.

What are the key objectives and goals of current 6G research?

To realize the use cases listed earlier, some of the key objectives of 6G research include:

  • network bandwidths of 50-200 Gbps with some research even considering 1 Tbps
  • data throughputs of 300-500 Mbps at each consumer device
  • area throughputs of 30-50 Mbps per square meter
  • number of connected devices of 1 million to 100 million per square km
  • seamless transfers at speeds of 500-1,000 km per hour
  • low latencies of 100 microseconds to 1 millisecond
  • precise positioning with accuracies of 1-10 cm

Other objectives include high reliability, coverage, security, resilience, and interoperability.

What technologies and innovations are being explored in 6G research?

Fig. 1: Keysight 6G sub-terahertz test setup.

The 6G objectives call for technical innovations at every level. We outline some of these research areas in the sections below.

Radio access network (RAN) innovations

Better efficiency, enhanced connectivity, and sustainability are sought through research projects like:

  • New sub-terahertz frequencies for high-speed broadband: Sub-terahertz bands and their propagation characteristics are being researched to achieve data rates exceeding 100 Gbps for use cases like holographic presence, extended reality, integrated access, and backhaul.
  • Additional capacity: To boost network capacity, researchers are studying the 7-24 gigahertz (GHz) band. Additionally, the 460-604 megahertz (MHz) band is being considered for extreme coverage.
  • Novel network topologies: Technologies like non-terrestrial networks and the continued virtualization and cloudification of the RAN offer new ways to design networks.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): AI offers tools to enhance the optimization and management of networks but can also be applied at the protocol and physical layers in order to improve RAN performance on a per-deployment basis.
  • Advanced multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO): Advances like massive MIMO and reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS) are being researched to optimize use of the sub-6 GHz spectrum.
  • Energy efficient communications: Research initiatives are looking into energy savings in networks and devices as well as near-zero energy systems for sustainable operations.
  • Full-duplex communication: Research is looking into full-duplex operation on each frequency channel to enhance throughput, reduce latency, and achieve flexible scheduling.

System architecture improvements

The system and network architecture research covers:

  • Digital twins: They’re virtual representations of physical networks for simulation, analysis, reconfiguration, real-time management, and orchestration across networks and services.
  • Non-terrestrial networks: They provide ubiquitous coverage using satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles in swarms.
  • Network disaggregation: This separates network functions into distinct segments, enabling flexible integration, scalability, and vendor diversity.
  • Distributed cloud: The 6G distributed cloud aims to integrate computing and communication seamlessly across the entire network, from data centers to edge computing, enabling ubiquitous computing services and efficient resource orchestration.
  • Mesh radio access networks (RANs): Mesh RANs and sidelinks enable nodes to connect directly and non-hierarchically for improved resilience, scalability, and coverage.

Operations and services

The operational and service enablement innovations include:

  • Ultra-reliable low-latency communication: This enables applications and services that require very high reliability and extremely low latency where even minor delays or data losses are unacceptable, such as industrial automation, remote surgery, and autonomous vehicles.
  • Autonomy and automation: The operations, administration, and management (OA&M) functions must evolve toward closed-loop automation with self-configuration, healing, optimization, and protection.
  • Disaster readiness: As the primary ubiquitous wireless technology, 6G networks must be resilient against natural disasters, cyberattacks, and terrorism. They must recover quickly post-disaster and restore critical services, expand exponentially to cope with increased demand during disasters, and function even if parts of the network are damaged.

Sustainability and security innovations are addressed in other sections below.

How is 6G research studying the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning?

All 6G stakeholders envision extensive use of machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL), and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques at all levels in 6G systems. Their uses in the following areas are being researched:

  • Optimized networks: Self-optimizing networks have already been implemented in 5G networks to handle drops in key performance indicators and detect anomalies. Since 6G networks are likely to be more cloud-based and containerized, with everything from the radio access networks (RANs) to even the core networks deployed that way, ML/AI are essential for ensuring ultra-low latencies at all times by dynamically deploying mobile edge computing (MEC) and other resources based on traffic patterns.
  • Efficient power management: In line with the sustainability goals, ML/AI are being considered for power optimization of many aspects of 6G communication systems. Predicting the ideal transmit power in high-interference environments can avoid retransmissions and energy wastage. Learning cell-level traffic patterns can help to optimize the sleeping schedules of base stations and other subsystems.
  • Optimized beamforming: DL/AI can optimize MIMO beamforming to adapt to real-time mobility patterns, to coordinate beams with other base stations, to allocate power where needed, to optimize the emission patterns of user equipment, and to improve the quality of value-added services.
  • Precise positioning: ML/AI can improve positioning systems by compensating for non-line-of-sight multipath errors that can cause substantial inaccuracies. 6G research in this area focuses on adapting ML models to the architectures of each space and their real-time occupancy using online learning.
  • Error corrections: ML/AI can adapt the channel coding and error estimation to improve the reliability of data in 6G digital signals.
  • Preemptive resource allocation: Since most IoT use cases have static sensors that send data on a schedule, 6G networks can adaptively allocate resources based on that schedule to reduce network latencies and prevent failures.
  • Streamlined applications: ML/DL/AI techniques are being researched for 6G applications like flying unmanned aerial vehicles and optimizing vehicular network data transfers.

What security and privacy aspects are being considered in 6G research?

Security and privacy are major challenges due to the expanded set of use cases brought by ubiquitous mobile communications. The aspects being researched include:

  • improved physical and link layer security
  • asymmetric cryptography that is resistant to quantum computing attacks
  • confidential computation and storage fabrics
  • secure data provenance
  • privacy-preserving mechanisms for collecting, analyzing, and storing data about network users
  • machine learning models that can learn the environment and prevent adversarial actions

How does 6G research address sustainability and environmental impacts?

With policies like the European Green Deal getting legislated to tackle climate change, the 6G ecosystem has proactively set sustainability as a key goal of 6G. The IMT-2030 addresses environmental, social, and economic sustainability. It supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

Research in these areas includes:

  • ubiquitous connectivity to reduce the digital divide and promote inclusivity in underserved regions of the world
  • energy efficiency at all levels of the network through smart idling of radios and optimized operations based on traffic patterns
  • reduced emissions through clean energy and advancements in electronic design
  • smart transportation solutions with optimized traffic flow for reduced emissions
  • improved energy consumption through 6G-connected machines and robotics in manufacturing
  • reduced carbon footprint with 6G-enabled smart agriculture
  • smart renewable energy grids built with 6G networks and sensors

What are some challenges in 6G research?

Fig. 2: Over-the-air measurement results at 310 GHz.

Some of the challenges of these new technologies are:

  • Noise due to high bandwidth: The sub-THz bandwidths for 100+ Gbps throughputs result in more noise and reduce the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). So SNR must be optimized at every stage using techniques like Flex Frame.
  • High interference: The ubiquitous connectivity goals of 6G will result in high interference, which can lead to performance bottlenecks as well as high energy consumption.
  • OA&M challenges: High reliability and resilience require continuous real-time backup of network data and configurations and the efficient integration of restored elements back into the network during recovery.
  • Security challenges: The ubiquitous nature of the network results in a drastically bigger attack surface.

What is the state of 6G collaborations and standardization?

Fig. 3: The 6G standardization roadmap.

The 6G standardization roadmap has not yet started. As of March 2024, the ITU has published its IMT-2030 vision for 6G.

Guided by its goals, several industry and academic groups have set up alliances for researching and prototyping new technologies as well as enhancements for 6G. Such groups include:

  • the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance
  • the Next G Alliance to shape the direction of 6G in the U.S.
  • the 6G Flagship run by the University of Oulu in Finland
  • the Hexa-X and Hexa-X-II projects that are defining the European blueprints for 6G development

These groups will send their technical proposals for 6G to the ITU around 2027.

The ITU’s expert groups will review their proposals and select the ones that are best aligned with its 6G vision.

By then, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which develops the official standards, will have published its Release 19 and Release 20 specifications for 5G-Advanced and is expected to to work on the 6G standards as part of Release 21, which will be published by 2030.

Keysight’s 6G offerings

Fig. 4: 6G research testbed.

Keysight is a key member of the above alliances and the preferred test and measurement partner of major telecom vendors and research groups. Our 6G research includes:

The state-of-the-art equipment and software used in this research, and available to clients and partners, include:

In this article, we explored the goals and directions of current 6G research initiatives. Keysight’s expertise in high-frequency radio signals makes us a natural partner of choice for network equipment vendors and research groups working on 6G.

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