If research initiatives are anything to go by, Germany is set to lead the world when 6G comes around.

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has chucked an unspecified amount of euros at a new project called 6G NeXt. As you may already suspect, this is one of those somewhat forced acronyms, in this case denoting ‘Native Extensions for XR Technologies’. The press release doesn’t even bother to explain what XR stands for, presumably assuming everyone already knows, but for you hopeless luddites out there it means extended reality.

In other words, the sort of virtual reality, augmented reality and metaverse stuff we’ve long been assured will become part of everyday life once 5G is rolled out. If this initiative is anything to go by, that technological revolution has now been delayed by a generation, but the German government seems determined to be ready to pounce once the big day finally arrives.

Its fairly predictable lead partner in 6G NeXt is Deutsche Telekom, which has never disguised its fondness for public money. The project is just one part of the catchily-named ‘6G industry projects for research into integrated systems and sub-technologies for 6th generation mobile communications’ programme. A bunch of other German companies are also getting a piece of the action.

The purpose of this specific project is to ‘develop a scalable, modular, and flexible end to end infrastructure’ that will serve as a test-bed for XR applications. A highlight will apparently be ‘a high-speed software layer with native AI network optimization for real-time data processing and enabling a dynamic distribution of complex computing tasks to the optimal location.’

“6G NeXt is focused on developing a foundational infrastructure where we can test and validate advanced immersive XR experiences even in the most demanding use cases,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, Head of T-Labs at Deutsche Telekom.  “We are excited to collaborate with leading German startups and SMEs who will contribute their ideas and requirements for this innovative technology direction.”

Here are a couple of use cases that are expected to push the new infrastructure to its very limits.

  • A novel anti-collision system for aviation using the example of drones at airports with mixed air traffic. This application requires low latency, synchronization of data streams and the ability to compute data in a distributed manner (split computing).
  • An interactive end-to-end transmission of real-time 3D holographic video with photorealistic content and realistic 3D depth for video conferencing and monitoring. This application requires high bit rates upstream and downstream as well as distributed and intelligent video processing.

This is far from the first German-run 6G programme. The BMBF found some money for another project called 6G-ANNA this summer, which disappointingly isn’t about some utopian robot but instead focuses more broadly on 6G R&D. More recently the EU, of which Germany is the senior member, unveiled Hexa-X-II. Both of those seem to feature heavy involvement from Nokia. Maybe Germany and Europe will lead the way on 6G but if they do that will be a reversal of the current direction of travel.

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