How Europe Plans to Become a World Leader in 6G

ByDavid Harmon

May 11, 2021

David Harmon

Europe is home to some of the finest engineers, scientists, and software developers in the world. The EU is in a very strong position indeed to play a leading role in developing the 6G standards of the future. It is anticipated that the timeframe to begin 6G rollout will be 2029 or 2030. But the process to ensure that 6G will become a reality within this timeframe has already begun.

This will be a natural evolution from the fifth-generation (5G) of mobile networks, which will remain the key operating cornerstone for telecom systems globally over the next ten years. Mobile networks have evolved through five different generations over the last four decades. Every ten years, a new generation of mobile networks emerges with consequent improvements in data-rate, latency, connection density and processing capabilities. 6G will enable the Internet of Senses, holographic telepresence, real-time automation, collaborative robots and a de facto the Internet of Everything.

It is anticipated that the timeframe to begin 6G rollout will be 2029 or 2030.

Why Discuss 6G Now?

Why are we talking about 6G now when 5G has just started to be rolled-out in different parts of the world? The answer to this question lies in the fact that global collaborative engagement at the basic research stage into 6G must commence now if 6G is to be successfully delivered into the marketplace by 2029-2030. This collaborative research activity will play a critical role in the setting of the standards that will globally support this sixth generation of mobile networks.

EU Policy Framework for 6G: SNS JU

The Horizon Europe research, innovation and science programme 2021-2027 is the primary instrument that the EU is using to deliver its 6G policy action plan. The European Commission and the 27 EU member state governments have approved an indicative budget of €900 million towards what is known as the Joint Undertaking on Smart Networks and Services (SNS JU). This is the body that will oversee the actual 6G research calls for proposals under Horizon Europe. The governing board of the SNS JU will comprise representatives from the European Commission and from European industry. The 5G Infrastructure Association (5GIA) together with other groupings such as Networld 2020 and AIOTI are drawing up the key strategic and research innovation actions that must be rolled-out by the SNS JU during the timeframe of Horizon Europe 2021-2027.

Read more: How Horizon Europe Will Benefit SMEs

Other key powers of the SNS JU include the following:-

  • Support EU leadership to master 6G by 2030.
  • Foster the technological sovereignty of Europe in the domain of smart networks and services.
  • Develop vertical markets for 6G usage.
  • Reduce energy consumption levels in digital infrastructure.
  • Play a key role in the standardisation process for 6G.
  • Prepare 6G spectrum plans for the EU.
  • Align SNS JU activities with EU strategic roadmaps covering the cloud and micro-electronic areas.
  • Create a critical mass of EU public and private actors within the 6G eco-system and landscape.

The SNS JU will oversee the research calls for proposals that will promote advanced 5G activities. It will work with industry and academic partners to identify which technologies are best prepared to deliver 6G advancements covering the Internet of Things (IoT), devices and software. Proof of concepts for 6G, large-scale trials and pilot projects in vertical industries will also be managed by this SNS JU. It is expected that the SNS JU will be in a position to publish its first 6G research call for proposals under Horizon Europe in October 2021.

International Dimension to 6G

The European Union joins a host of other countries around the world that are to implement policy frameworks to make 6G a reality. This includes China, the US, Japan, and Korea – to name a few. The process of innovation does not stop at any defined geographical boarder. International collaboration and cooperation between the public, private, educational and research communities across the length and breadth of the world is vitally important if the world is to ensure that global 6G unitary standards are secured.

Internationally approved unitary 6G standards will reduce costs for businesses, foster higher levels of innovation and reduce inefficiencies within global digital value chains. We should recall that vertical industries such as the manufacturing, transport, energy, smart city, health, education, and agriculture sectors are becoming more digitized as each day passes. Governments around the world must strive to build common unitary 6G standards and avoid the economic cost that de-coupled standards could bring to society.

ICT: An Ever-growing Economic Enabler

There are two rivers running in parallel that should be analysed in the context of the ensuing global 6G debate.

  1. On the one hand there is the ever increasing and penetrative role of ICT in a broader range of business activities.
  2. On the other hand there is a growing realization that the digital economy is growing more quickly and more strongly than the global economy.

The research industry is a driver of economic growth. Governments need to financially back the scientists and engineers of today if we are to successfully build a more innovative society. We are living through a digital revolution. The process of change due to ICT ingenuity and innovation is an unstoppable process. 6G will be an intrinsic and central element of this digital journey. With its forward-looking policies and approach, the European Union has the potential to become a world leader in the development of 6G.


Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

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David Harmon

Director, EU Public Affairs, Huawei Technologies

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