INTERVIEW: Henrik Almeida, head of research at Ericsson UK, backed 6G to deliver a major shake-up to society and the world’s digital environment, as he provided an update on the vendor’s progress in developing the next-generation network.

In an interview with Mobile World Live, Almeida, who joined Ericsson UK from its Turkish unit earlier this year, believes 6G’s potential should not be undermined by its distant arrival, with many in the industry not expecting a commercial launch until around the end of the decade.

He pointed to 6G’s AI-native architecture as a feature that will set it apart from its predecessors. According to Almeida, this intelligent network will be key to an environment saturated with millions of AI applications, as they will require a secure communication network that is able to collect and analyse data in real-time.

“From a performance point of view, the number of users will also increase as it will not only be humans that are using the networks, it’s also machines and robots. The use of the network will increase immensely,” he added.

While it’s too soon to see the market environment that will shape 6G, Almeida noted the technology will benefit many sectors of society in supporting mission-critical cases.

He pointed to network sensing capabilities as an example. “In the future, [6G] networks will work like a radar, and parts of the spectrum will be used to sense the environment and localise things in a very precise way”.

This means the signal will not only be used to transmit data but to sense and analyse the environments in which this data is collected. The scale of automation enabled by the advanced network also means that there is a lot of work to be done from a security perspective.

Almeida, who is heading the research from Ericsson’s new London site, said there are two units devoted to developing the network and hardware security.

The research will also explore how 6G can coexist with other solutions like non-terrestrial networks.

Ericsson is part of Europe’s flagship 6G consortium, the Hexa-X and Hexa-X-II, along with fellow industry peers. Last year, the company pledged to spend tens of millions of pounds on 6G R&D in the UK.

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