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Exploring 6G Technology: Partnerships, Progress, and Future Implications

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Even though 6G technology is still many years away from becoming a commercial reality, the interest in its development is steadily increasing among the telecoms community. This week saw two Japanese telecoms giants, NTT DOCOMO and NTT, expanding their 6G research partnership circle to include South Korean operator SK Telecom and electronics testing expert Rohde & Schwarz.

These new collaborators will contribute to various ongoing 6G trials in Japan. These trials are primarily aimed at identifying potential frequency bands conducive for this evolving technology. SK Telecom will specifically be part of a trial co-conducted by DOCOMO, NTT, and Nokia, exploring the use of AI for customizing radio interfaces for diverse propagation environments.

An official statement from Nokia shed more light on this partnership, hinting at the development of a ‘6G AI-native air interface (AI-AI). This innovative technology could significantly enhance network performance, while also improving energy efficiency. The prime focus includes devising a future proof-of-concept for 6G AI-AI systems, which would then be assessed under real-world conditions.

Peter Vetter, President of Bell Labs Core Research at Nokia, rightly emphasized the need for service provider input for crafting a top-notch 6G system. According to Vetter, “SKT, NTT, and DOCOMO are among the most innovative service providers in the world, which gives us the perfect partners to design the networks of the future.”

Considering SK Telecom’s ambition to transition from a telco to an AI company, their participation in this partnership with Nokia and the Japanese telecom leaders is quite logical.

In the meantime, Rohde & Schwarz will utilize their adeptness in measurement-system design technology to evaluate wireless-sensing solutions under real-world conditions.

DOCOMO and NTT are already leading various 6G spectrum trials with several tech giants including Fujitsu, NEC, Nokia, Ericsson, and Keysight Technologies. All of these aim to play a pivotal role in shaping and standardizing the 6G technology.

For instance, Nokia has already achieved successful beamforming trials in the 140GHz band. Meanwhile, Fujitsu has been experimenting with distributed MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology in the 100GHz and 300GHz bands. The next phase involves the exploration of more specific applications using the sub-terahertz spectrum in indoor environments.

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