Beyond higher bandwidth, lower latency and massive device connectivity, what else might 6G mobile networks offer? SoftBank, at least at this point, envisions one outcome most expect: the interworking of literally every available access platform, terrestrial or in space.
But SoftBank also envisions a central role for edge computing, including multi-access edge computing operated by mobile operators. Integration of satellite or other high-altitude platform stations (unmanned aerial vehicles, for example) also is expected.
None of that is really unexpected, as 5G already is moving towards those objectives.
Both of those capabilities–any network access and edge computing–are extrapolations from current and expected 5G trends and capabilities. One major development would be SoftBank’s expectation that best effort access will be replaced by assured access based on widespread edge computing and network slicing.
6G will provide “complete end-to-end communication for customers with appropriate Service Level Agreements (SLA) in its network by leveraging Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and network slicing,” SoftBank says. In and of itself, that is relatively unremarkable.
The whole point of 5G edge computing and network slicing is to provide the ability for reliable and available connections.
Still, unless there is some shift away from internet protocol, it is hard to see how guaranteed performance for consumer or standard business connections can happen on a routine basis.
It would be a major development indeed if best effort access were swapped out for some more-deterministic access method.
To be sure, 6G will be an extrapolation from 5G as 5G was an extrapolation from 4G. So right now there are two poles of thought about 6G. The first is that it codifies capabilities created for 5G. The other is more futuristic and envisions an “internet of senses” capability (taste and touch).
The truth might wind up someplace between. We should see some features that are not just 5G extrapolations, but also not really see mass deployment of “internet of senses” capabilities.
And it might happen that the important innovations are enabled by applications that no longer have many restrictions of bandwidth, geography or latency. That implies the big changes will come from applications that use artificial intelligence. It is not so much the network features as the application developer freedom.
Perhaps that is the classic and established pattern, after all.