Unveiling the future: How 6G will transform broadcasting

A conversation with Alexander Lawrence, Editor in Chief of ‘6G World’

In the world of telecommunications, 6G is emerging as a signal fire of future possibilities, promising to revolutionize not only how we connect, but also how content is consumed globally. In our conversation with Alexander Lawrence, the insightful editor of 6GWorld, we explore the profound impact that this new technology could have on the broadcast and audiovisual industries. With a deep understanding of technology shifts and their broader implications, Lawrence provides a fascinating glimpse into a future where 6G technology breaks down traditional barriers in content production, distribution and consumption.

As we stand on the cusp of this new technological era, Lawrence makes it clear that 6G will enable more immersive media experiences. It will integrate augmented and virtual reality in ways that were previously constrained by bandwidth limitations. This next-generation technology will allow broadcasters to deliver richer, more interactive content. It will enable experiences like virtual reality broadcasts and augmented reality overlays that will transform viewer engagement.

Furthermore, Lawrence is clear that stakeholders in the broadcasting industry must begin preparations for the 6G rollout now. From adapting to more advanced network infrastructures to embracing the convergence of digital and physical spaces, the steps taken today will pave the way for a smooth transition to 6G. This comprehensive preparation must involve technological upgrades but also a strategic rethinking of content delivery and audience interaction in a hyper-connected world.

 

Can you explain the core mission of 6GWorld and how it plans to influence the development and adoption of 6G technology globally?

6GWorld is an integrated platform dedicated to bridging the transition from 5G to 6G within the telecom and communications industries. Our focus extends beyond the mere technological evolution; we’re deeply invested in shaping how these advancements unfold commercially and socially. We aim to ensure that the next generation of technology is not only innovative but also beneficial and accessible to society and consumers alike.

One of the core aspects of our mission involves addressing historical challenges in the industry. Traditionally, there has been a tendency to view telecommunications through a somewhat narrow lens—focusing primarily on technological standards without equal consideration for commercial viability or societal impact. This approach is something we actively work against.

For instance, as 3GPP kicks off its explorations into 6G this year, there’s a potential risk that the broader industry might fall into a passive mode, waiting on the sidelines until standards are established. At 6GWorld, we believe it’s crucial to concurrently consider how these emerging technologies can be transformed into valuable services, what regulatory measures are needed to support widespread adoption, and how to ensure these innovations reach all segments of the population. This proactive stance is essential to driving meaningful progress in the telecom sector.

 

So with 6G still in the research and the development phase what are the most promising futures of 6G that you believe will revolutionize or break the ground into communications?

At this early stage, 6G is surrounded by a multitude of ideas and possibilities. However, one of the most transformative concepts is the integration of various communication forms that have traditionally operated in silos—such as cellular, fixed networks, Wi-Fi, and satellite. The promise of 6G lies in its ability to seamlessly blend these technologies into a cohesive system. This convergence could introduce new technologies and use existing ones in novel ways to create a more unified and efficient network.

What makes this vision particularly compelling is the potential impact on the user experience. Imagine a world where the complexities of network types become transparent to users. You wouldn’t necessarily need a new device to tap into the benefits of 6G; instead, everything would work together to deliver services seamlessly, regardless of your location. This simplicity and ease of use are what we aim for with 6G, as it promises not just to evolve our technical capabilities but to fundamentally simplify and enhance how we connect and communicate. This, I believe, could be truly revolutionary for the field of communications.

 

The embracing of AI into the communications is becoming increasingly important. How do you foresee AI playing a role in the development and deployment of 6G networks?

There’s a variety of methods. The integration of AI into communications is not just important—it’s becoming indispensable. Researchers are exploring several exciting ways to leverage AI to streamline and enhance the functionality of telecom networks. One of the most promising applications of AI in 6G is its potential to operate quietly yet efficiently in the background, automating many aspects of network management. For instance, AI could optimize how networks communicate with devices, enhancing efficiency and service quality.

AI could also play a critical role in energy management by intelligently controlling when to deactivate certain cell sites to conserve energy without disrupting service. This capability will be increasingly important as we move towards more sustainable technologies.

Furthermore, AI can facilitate unprecedented collaboration between different service providers. Imagine being at a crowded event and trying to upload a high-definition video. Your mobile device, through AI, could simultaneously utilize networks from multiple providers like Telefónica and others to manage data overflow, ensuring smooth and uninterrupted service. This kind of intelligent network management could significantly enhance user experiences, making connectivity seamless and more reliable than ever. This is the kind of innovation we anticipate as AI becomes more woven into the fabric of 6G technology.

 

Let’s say AI would work like a GPS finding the best way and the best flow for you.

Yeah, exactly. And even if that means you have to borrow somebody else’s services, and then it makes that happen in the background.

 

One of the key pillars of the ITU’s 6G vision is Integrated Sensing & Communication (ISAC). How might ISAC enhance the capabilities of 6G networks and its potential applications?

Integrated Sensing and Communication is a groundbreaking development that combines traditional telecommunications with advanced sensing capabilities. This integration could profoundly enhance the functionality and applications of 6G networks in several ways. For example, in an airport setting, while video cameras provide visual surveillance, ISAC can use telecom signals for precise localization and movement tracking of individuals. This could include the ability to detect concealed objects under clothing, potentially improving security measures significantly.

Moreover, ISAC can improve the interaction between different types of sensors, such as coordinating telecom signals with video cameras to pinpoint the location of individuals more accurately.

 

So here they come, the benefits for broadcasters.

That’s it: and this capability not only enhances security but also optimizes network management by adjusting signal distribution based on real-time human presence and movement within a space.

Looking forward, the potential applications of ISAC extend even further. Imagine a scenario in a building where the integrated system primarily supports broadband connectivity. In an emergency, like a fire, this system could be invaluable for rescue operations. Firefighters could access the system to determine the location of individuals through smoke-filled environments, dramatically improving emergency response efficiency and safety.

ISAC promises to transform how we think about and use 6G technology, bridging the gap between sensing and communication to create smarter, safer, and more responsive environments. This integration not only represents a significant technological leap but also offers tangible benefits that could improve everyday life.

 

The concept of network virtualization, including technologies like SDN and network slicing, has been highlighted in 6G discussions. How might these technologies evolve with the advent of 6G?

Network virtualization is increasingly recognized as foundational for the next generation of telecommunications. Service providers are keenly aware of the inefficiencies and high costs associated with overhauling networks for each new generation. Ideally, future advancements would be implemented predominantly through software changes, which is where technologies like SDN and network slicing come into play. These technologies enable telecoms to experiment with and deploy new functionalities in a manner similar to how companies like Google iterate on software products. This approach allows for rapid testing and scaling of new services—implementations that work can be scaled up quickly, while those that don’t can be discontinued without significant financial fallout.

Moreover, with 6G, the potential to further virtualize network functions means that we could significantly reduce reliance on older legacy networks like 2G, 3G, and 4G infrastructures. This shift not only cuts costs dramatically for telecommunications companies but also saves space and energy, contributing to more sustainable practices within the industry.

So, as we transition into the 6G era, the role of network virtualization is set to become more critical than ever. It promises not only greater flexibility and efficiency in network management but also aligns with the broader industry goals of sustainability and cost-effectiveness. This evolution represents a significant step forward in how networks are built and operated, moving away from physical infrastructures towards more agile and adaptable virtual systems.

 

Given your experience with major telecom events and the industry’s trajectory, what are the most significant challenges and opportunities that 6G presents for broadcasters and content creators in terms of production, distribution, and consumption?

The arrival of 6G is poised to greatly simplify and enhance the way audiences consume various types of content. Today, technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are pushing the boundaries of what 5G can handle, often saturating networks due to their substantial data demands. 6G aims to address these limitations, potentially revolutionizing content consumption by scaling these experiences efficiently. This could open up exciting new possibilities for broadcasting in AR and VR, enabling immersive experiences even in settings like new digital theaters enhanced by 6G technology.

Furthermore, 6G could expand the realm of content beyond what we currently imagine, transitioning from simple video to more interactive and holographic content—imagine not just watching cat videos, but interacting with cat holograms!

For broadcasters, 6G represents an opportunity to ensure universal access to content. The technology could enable reliable connectivity in traditionally challenging environments, such as tunnels, through seamless integration with local network systems like Wi-Fi. This capability would ensure that audiences can access high-quality broadcasts anywhere, overcoming the physical limitations of previous network generations.

In summary, 6G presents both significant challenges and unparalleled opportunities for the broadcasting and content creation industries, promising to transform how content is produced, distributed, and consumed on a global scale.

 

As 6G aims to be more than just advancement in speed, can you discuss the social and economic impacts you anticipate from the widespread deployment of 6G?

Yeah. I think it’s a great question, I appreciate it because it touches on the critical social and economic impacts that 6G technology could bring about. One of the key lessons learned from the pandemic is the vital importance of connectivity. Governments worldwide have recognized this and are pushing for the next generation of broadband to be both accessible and robust, enhancing societal benefits and economic growth.

6G is expected to take these improvements a step further by offering unprecedented levels of security and reliability, more so than any previous generation. This aspect is particularly crucial as we consider the potential threats in an increasingly connected world—securing everything from vehicles to critical infrastructure is paramount.

Furthermore, the widespread deployment of 6G could have transformative social implications, particularly in enhancing the flexibility of where and how people work. The ability to work remotely, facilitated by robust and reliable 6G networks, could decentralize workforce distributions, alleviating the pressure on urban centers like London, where the cost of living is exorbitantly high. This shift could enable more people to live in less costly areas, contributing to a more balanced economic development across regions.

In terms of economic impact, 6G could significantly boost productivity by enabling new forms of remote and distributed production across various industries. This change is not just about maintaining operations from a distance; it’s about revolutionizing how industries function, potentially making remote work a viable option across the globe.

So, as we continue to develop and refine 6G technology, it’s clear that its impact will extend far beyond speed and technical capabilities—it will fundamentally reshape social structures and economic systems, promoting a more connected, secure, and distributed world.

 

With the convergence of digital and physical worlds, how do you see 6G shaping the future of immersive media and entertainment experiences?

When I think about the convergence of digital and physical worlds, I’m excited about how 6G will transform immersive media and entertainment experiences. Indeed, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are at the forefront of this shift, but the implications extend far beyond just these technologies.

With 6G, the integration of digital elements into our everyday environments will become more seamless and interactive. Imagine being able to overlay a personalized AR rainbow over your home or having virtual objects like Pokémon appear in your kitchen, tailored specifically for game players in that space. These experiences could be restricted or shared based on user permissions, enhancing both privacy and personalization.

Moreover, the potential applications of these technologies are vast and varied. In fields like engineering and medicine, for instance, enhanced AR could aid in complex tasks by providing real-time, context-sensitive information overlaid on the physical world. Similarly, for individuals with visual impairments, 6G could revolutionize accessibility by enabling smart, adaptive visual aids that help users interact more fully with their surroundings.

These advancements are not just about creating fun or novel experiences; they’re about weaving digital enhancements into the fabric of daily life, making them both useful and transformative. The power of 6G to support these interactions with minimal latency and maximum reliability will be a game-changer, opening up new realms of possibility for immersive media and entertainment.

 

Finally, based on 6GWorld’s extensive research and insights, what timeline do you predict for the rollout of 6G, and what steps should stakeholders be taking now to prepare?

I think it’s important to recognize how the deployment of telecommunications technologies is evolving. Unlike previous generations, where new networks were switched on like a light, the transition to 6G will likely be more gradual and iterative.

Based on our research and the industry’s current trajectory, I anticipate that official 6G standards could be established around 2028. Following this, we might begin to see systems built on these standards by around 2030. However, the exciting part is that we’re likely to experience initial versions and applications of 6G technologies even earlier—potentially as soon as 2026. These early deployments will gradually enhance and expand, bringing us into the full 6G era over time.

For stakeholders, preparation should start now. This includes investing in research and development, particularly in areas like network virtualization, integrated sensing and communication, and AI-driven network management. Additionally, updating regulatory frameworks to support these new technologies will be crucial for a smooth transition.

Therefore, stakeholders shouldn’t expect a sudden switch to 6G but rather prepare for a progressive improvement in network capabilities. The journey to 6G will be marked by incremental advancements, each enhancing the last, until the full vision of 6G comes into clear focus. This approach means that our experience of network technology will continuously improve, setting a dynamic course for the future of telecommunications.

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