InterDigital and Omdia have teamed up for a joint study arguing that in order to measure the success of future 6G services, new ‘quality of personal experience’ metrics will be needed.

The white paper, titled ‘Experience the Future of 6G: A New Direction for Telecom’ says that 6G will be capable of ‘engaging a diversity of human senses, including touch and spatial awareness’, that will enable ‘fully immersive cyber-physical experiences.’

Based on experiments conducted by students at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction Institute, interviews with potential 6G enterprise customers, service providers and other industry types, the main point of the report seems to be that we need to think differently about measuring the success of such services as 6G emerges on the horizon.

No one knows exactly what 6G will be yet of course – and to some extent we’re still realising the potential of 5G – but the report argues that in order for the industry to make the most of the new technologies and experiences it might bring, it will need to move to a more ‘user centric framework’ for providing and delivering services – or ‘Quality of Personal Experience’ (QoPE) metrics.

It says ‘current industry jargon is inadequate to illustrate to both service providers and consumers the potential for services that merge physical, digital, and virtual contexts’, or whatever it is ‘sensory-enhanced services’ may provide.

“6G shifts the focus of value creation from connectivity to delivering brilliant experiences,” said Omdia chief analyst and report author Camille Mendler. “However, if you can’t measure something, you can’t monetize it.”

Donald Butts Sr, Director of Technology Strategy at InterDigital added: “What happens when improvements in latency and bandwidth are good enough, is that providing a high-quality experience to users will become even more crucial and require a shift in focus from the typical areas of concern for the telecom industry today.”

The study claims cognitive impact, physical safety, and enhanced privacy will be important as 6G comes into focus and may attract future regulatory oversight. It also says ‘sensory driven metrics’ will become critical as networks start to shift from ‘people-to-device networks to people-to-people networks’.

As mentioned, it’s hard to know exactly what it is 6G will usher in as we are still finding out what it is 5G’s ultimate contribution will be. But to a greater or lesser degree the industry does appear to be ramping up the rhetoric around it. Yesterday the boss of Chinese telco China Unicom told reporters he expects his company to start trialling 6G application by 2025.

Last week India’s Narendra Modi presented a new 6G roadmap, known as Bharat 6G Vision, which apparently aims to see 6G services in the country by 2030, and at MWC Nokia speculated that 6G might involve chipping humans with NFC devices, and scanners that can measure the bodily information of crowds.

So as the 6G drum starts beating, it probably is a good time to reflect on how as an industry we pitch and measure products and services, which appears to be the thrust of this InterDigital/Omdia report. One good lesson to take from the 5G rollout that springs to mind would be to not over promise the impacts too early – which to be fair isn’t easy if you are in the business of selling or cultivating investment for next generation connectivity.

The argument that ditching the jargon will be a good idea when it comes time to put 6G out on a stall seems like a solid point. Though that does depend on the really novel experiences – multi-sensory or otherwise – being there in the first place in order to point to them instead of talking about bandwidth and speed. If there were something really game-changing to point to when it comes to the consumer benefits of 5G that did not exist before, no doubt the telecoms marketing machine would already be eagerly barking about it.

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