Nokia, NTT Docomo and NTT report they have achieved two key technological milestones on the path to 6G. The first is the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into the radio air interface, to give 6G radios the ability to learn. The second is the utilization of new sub-terahertz (sub-THz) spectrum to boost network capacity. 

The AI-native air interface and sub-THz spectrum are both critical research topics that Nokia, Docomo and NTT are exploring for future 6G networks. These technologies are designed to pave the way for new immersive metaverse and extended reality (XR) services and a new generation of mobile applications. The companies have implemented both technologies as proofs of concept at Nokia Bell Labs in Stuttgart, Germany, and Nokia and Docomo will demonstrate both technologies at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, between 27 February and 2 March.

By pairing an AI-based learned waveform in a transmitter with a deep-learning receiver, Nokia Bell Labs, Docomo and NTT researchers claim they were able to design and implement a learning air interface that transmits data efficiently under many different scenarios. This AI/ML-based implementation is expected to reduce signalling overhead, producing up to a 30 percent improvement in throughput. 

In addition, the AI-native air interface is designed to enable 6G networks to adapt to the type of connection demanded by an application, device or user. For instance, a network in a factory can be optimized for industrial sensors at one moment and then reconfigured for robotic systems or video surveillance. In the public network, an AI-enhanced network can provide an optimized connection for a pedestrian in an XR session as well as an emergency vehicle traveling at high speed.

In their proof-of-concept, Nokia, Docomo and NTT demonstrated a 25 Gbps connection on a single 256QAM stream over a carrier frequency of 144 GHz using beamforming. Accessing the sub-THz bands would inject enormous capacity into 6G networks, NTT also said. The sub-THz bands are expected to improve overall capacity, as well as allow 6G networks to support the most bandwidth intensive future use cases requiring multi-gigabit average connections.

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