LIVE FROM 6G SYMPOSIUM, LONDON: The sudden rise of generative AI systems showcases the difficulties of planning for 6G use cases today, argued David Lister, senior R&D manager at Vodafone Group as he outlined four broad categories expected to shape the next-generation of mobile.

Lister, who is also the co-lead of the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance’s 6G work programme, said the operator industry body had been working for around a year to break down 6G use cases into four segments, following discussions with around 40 different organisations.

However, despite the rigorous work being done to plan for 6G and design the network to fit use cases which may emerge in the 2030s, Lister pointed to the recent hype around large language models in generative AI as evidence that no-one can “predict the future”.

“The rate of technology innovation in our industry is phenomenal,” he said. “Even though we talked about AI to some degree a couple of years ago, nobody foresaw the large language models that have emerged in the last couple of months,” highlighting the Microsoft-backed ChatGPT platform as an example.

“We don’t know what impact that will have on our networks going forward. If we do this work again it will probably have much more of an impact on use cases. This will change over time and we have to recognise the innovative world that we live in.”

Generic use cases
Despite the challenges of forecasting use cases so early on, Lister did proceed to outline four “generic” segments which 6G could focus on

Enhanced human communication involves the use of 6G for immersive experiences and multi-modal communications, adding touch and sense features to voice and imaging.

Secondly, 6G is touted to drive enhanced machine communication, increasing the use of robots, drones and guided vehicles.

Enabling services in smart industry and digital healthcare is the third segment, with the fourth focusing on network evolution, with operators targeting energy efficiency, coverage expansion and integrating AI into networks.

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