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6G: Predictions and Possibilities – The Rise of AI and the Network Edge

Jul 10, 2024
Jonas Hultenius

As we quickly approach the cusp of the 6G era, the conversation around the next generation of mobile networks is brimming with excitement and anticipation. While 5G is still rolling out in many parts of the world, the tech landscape is already buzzing with the new possibilities of 6G.

One thing is certain: 6G promises to be a transformative force, pushing the boundaries of connectivity and ushering in a new wave of innovation. Not only does it promise to be lightning fast with next to no latency, but it also brings with it a lot of new transformative tech, with two key players at the forefront: Artificial Intelligence and the Network Edge.

AI has nestled its way into every corner of our world and is hailed as the savior or the force behind all future tech, and quite often it has a tendency to feel shoehorned in. But in this instance, AI will play a critical role in the upcoming revolution. It’s set to act as the invisible brain behind the entire network’s operations, and given the sheer scale of it, it will be an indispensable part of 6G’s success.

Magical AI algorithms, since everything we don’t understand is akin to magic, will be able to analyze network traffic patterns in real-time, dynamically allocating resources and optimizing data flow to ensure consistent and high-performance traffic with minimal latency.

These new network optimizations could even give us the benefits of self-healing, where AI-empowered networks could identify and resolve potential issues before they are even noticeable or disrupt user experiences. This proactive approach would ensure unbeatable uptime and provides us with a truly resilient network.

A not too farfetched prediction is that these kinds of algorithms could also be used for higher degree of personalized experiences. An AI could tailor our bandwidth allocation and service delivery based on individual users’ needs and preferences, as well as device and service plan. You get the capabilities you need, when you need them, and aren’t locked into any fixed tiering structure.

Security also needs to be at the forefront with the ever-growing threat landscape. Here AI also can play a pivotal role and be used to bolster network security by detecting and mitigating cyberattacks in real-time.

The end result will be a wireless infrastructure that optimizes itself to combat problems and security issues at real time and serving us, the end users, with the best possible experience without us ever knowing anything about it. Pure magic.

AI is great, but it’s not the only new thing that will reshape our world in the next generation.

The sheer volume of data generated by this new interconnected world will necessitate a shift towards processing information where it matters most, at the Network Edge.

You could think about it as a logistical problem in the more classical sense. We are moving from the older model of few centralized warehouses catering to all our shipping needs, to a new model with local fulfillment centers closer to the end customer. This facilitates for faster shipping in general and also a quicker turnover of our stock, both data and products alike, as the fulfillment centers can be stocked with the right “products” before you ever know that you wanted them.

The 6G networks with its blazing speeds would act as the ultra-fast last mile delivery, seeing to it that you get your delivery as fast as theoretically possible, much like the same day deliveries we see from this shift in the real world. But hopefully without a digital equivalent to the growing problem with porch pirates. But I digress.

One could argue that with the near endless bandwidth and ultra-low latency we could even take more inspiration from real life logistics and pre-package our solutions on the edge and leave the request-response paradigm behind. At least for some scenarios.    Instead of loading data from the server for each single page or requesting more content from an endpoint we could download the whole website as a single flat package, IKEA style. This would still be blazingly fast thanks to the 6G network, and we would have it all, the entire page or product catalogue, at our fingertips.

Even some dynamic scenarios could be cached on the edge, with most if not all possibilities being pre-calculated and then just downloaded and rehydrated on the client side.

Going beyond this half-baked idea there are a lot of other benefits of moving your fulfillment centers, e.g. computing and storage, closer to the end user.

By processing data closer to the source, the network edge minimizes the need for long-distance data transfers, significantly reducing latency. This is particularly critical for real-time applications like AR/VR and autonomous vehicles. An argument could be made that to be able to combat the problems we have with self-driving technologies today we might need to offload the task to a more centralized, yet still decentralized, network of “traffic wardens”. This would alleviate some of the problems and allowing several vehicles to share sensor data and coordinate traffic collectively rather than individually.

Edge computing reduces the burden on centralized cloud servers and directly leads to increased network efficiency and improved overall performance. And with 6G as a central part of this decentralized system, data in-between edge endpoints could be shared to other nodes without any perceivable latency.

There are also benefits to be had on the security front. Processing data closer to the end user can improve security by minimizing the amount of sensitive information that needs to travel across the network.

The network edge also provides the necessary processing power to support the vast number of devices that will be part of the ever-expanding IoT ecosystem. This allows us to have more devices and make them simpler than ever before, and in the scenario with self-driving vehicles, also share necessary data with sensors not mounted on the vehicles themselves. And thusly augmented the approach we have today.

The 6G network promises to open up new doors for a plethora of innovative applications and brand-new use cases. While challenges remain, the potential of 6G is undeniable. With intelligent networks and distributed processing power we can unlock a future where technology empowers progress and enriches our lives in ways we can only begin to fathom.

The future truly is intelligent and distributed.

About the author

Jonas Hultenius

Software Architect | Sweden
I love technology and I tend to collect languages, techniques, patterns and ideas and stack them high. There is a beautiful synergy to be had and endless possibilities when mixing and matching. A process I find to be both exciting and fun. Innovation has always been a driving force for me.

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