The Next Horizon: Native Trustworthiness & Sustainability Are Key to 6G
This is the eighth blog in our 6G White Paper series looking at how technology will continue to evolve as the world adopts 6G networks.
Read the previous posts in the series here: 6G: The Next Horizon
Such is the pace of change, our norms and expectations are constantly evolving, shifting, if you will, up the food chain.
It would be inconceivable, for most of us, to purchase a home that doesn’t feature an indoor toilet nor modern plumbing. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine being satisfied with a black and white television set, a computer that slowly loads games via the medium of cassette, or a cellphone lacking wireless connectivity.
This progression, toward something that’s better and better, also holds true for network infrastructure. What was once good enough, now no longer is. And with the growth of the digital economy, supported by mobile connectivity, every network breach is an existential threat. Data security is paramount.
Similarly, as nations and regions across the globe embrace ambitious green strategies — from China’s “Dual Carbon” approach to the European Union (EU) Green Deal — tackling the urgent challenges wrought by climate change are cast as critical, too.
So, as the road to 6G hones into view, “Native Trustworthiness” and “Sustainability” — pillar five and pillar six of Huawei’s overall vision — are foundational values, lying right at the heart of the next generation of mobile networking technology.
With 6G integrating diverse capabilities — from communication and sensing to computing and intelligence — new network architecture will need to be flexible and accommodate both collaborative sensing and distributed learning, in order to support the rollout of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications en masse. As this architecture takes shape in the years to come, trustworthiness will lie at the core.
But what does native trustworthiness actually mean? It means network security and privacy for data, certainly. But it also refers to the resilience, safety, and reliability of the network itself.
Driven by data — including the essential knowledge and intelligence derived from it — 6G network architecture must therefore have in-built End to End (E2E) native trustworthiness, from data governance architecture that supports data compliance and monetization, to advanced privacy protection and defense technologies that can mitigate the threat of quantum computing attacks.
Cryptography and defense technologies will help build up this 6G network. Here, Huawei envisages three pillars of trustworthiness — namely, security, privacy, and resilience — with each pillar composed of different building blocks.
Security will focus on network integrity, confidentiality, and availability, factoring in the obvious reality that different assets will require different levels of protection in different scenarios.
Permanent Privacy Protection
Both user identity and user behavior will be protected: only those authorized by the user will be able to interpret the content of the information transferred to them.
In the face of inevitable faults and challenges, situational awareness and big data analytics will be used to identify risks, then avoid or transfer them. If this proves impossible, consequences will be strictly controlled, with only residual, non-harmful risks accepted.
Of course, a range of new technologies will make all of that possible, but two will be key.
Multilateral Trust Model
Including bridge, consensus, and endorsement modes, this model will lie at the foundation of future security systems. Indeed, given the distributed nature of 6G network architecture, a consensus-based approach will be the most important to multilateral trust. Here, distributed ledger technologies — not dissimilar to blockchain — need to be developed. However, first, there are wireless network challenges to address: including, but not limited to, how to achieve the combination of low latency, high availability, high reliability, strong privacy protection, and digital sovereignty.
Quantum computing poses severe challenges to classical cryptography. But with 6G, One-Time Pad (OTP) encryption — a randomly generated private key that’s used only once to encrypt and decrypt a message — can be used with full duplex communications at the physical layer, effectively safeguarding against future quantum computing-based attacks.
Indeed, quantum communication technology is expected to be more secure and have lower latency. But further research is — of course — required.
Turning to pillar six and we arrive at a key question of the age: sustainability. The ultimate goal of 6G network terminal design is to foster green and sustainable development. As such, 6G’s green design concept, allied to native AI capability, will improve overall energy efficiency by a factor of 100 compared to 5G.
Total energy consumption of the 6G network will actually fall below 5G, all while providing an optimal service performance and experience.
Quite aside from its own green credentials and standing as the core infrastructure of the digital economy, 6G is also destined to contribute to sustainable development across the board: it will help all industries become more energy efficient, support the success of diverse and bold national green strategies, and ultimately benefit us all.
That said, there is, much work to be done and many research directions to pursue. A full suite of new technologies will be required to realize energy efficiency, from new architectures, materials, and hardware, to new components, algorithms, software, and protocols.
And in order to keep focus on the end goal, the industry needs to establish industry-wide methodologies to properly evaluate sustainability across the entire ecosystem.
One final issue to be addressed is the ever-growing demand for computing power, given the growth of AI. Indeed, the computing power requirements of AI doubles every two to three months, outstripping Moore’s Law. And if data centers are to become neural centers — fueled by intelligence — it’s imperative that advanced Machine Learning (ML) is deployed to the full to empower AI-based 6G. To facilitate all of this, a standardized approach must be adopted to implement distributed computing architecture and software orchestration, laying the foundation for a 6G network that serves as a platform for a diversified ecosystem.
A clear agenda
So then, natively trustworthy and with a clear sustainable agenda, a 6G network begins to take shape. And just as very few could have predicted the ways the digital revolution has reshaped our lives, with mobile communications lying at the very core, it’s impossible to fully envisage what the emergence of 6G will truly mean. Impossible to know what our new norms and expectations will become, taken for granted by the time we arrive in 2030. It’s going to be interesting to find out what these unknowns actually are as they begin to emerge.
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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.