When I say the word “metaverse,” what comes to mind? Do you think of donning a virtual-reality headset and escaping to a digitally generated 3D world? If you do, you are certainly not alone. The prevailing view of the metaverse today assumes that we will depart our physical surroundings and disappear into a virtual world to play, work and socialize. Digital immersion is a powerful vision for the metaverse, enabling countless potential applications for entertainment and productivity. But I would argue there is an even bigger metaverse out there just waiting to be explored.
6G could alter every aspect of our lives. Our Chief Strategy and Technology Officer at Nokia, Nishant Batra, discusses how 6G will unlock the true potential of the metaverse, connecting physical, digital and human realities.
The metaverse I’m talking about is one where the physical, human and digital realities are conjoined. Through extended reality (XR), we can bring the metaverse wherever we go, rather than confine it to our homes and offices. This metaverse will embrace mobility; it will be equally at home in the consumer, enterprise and industrial realms; and it will be built on the foundation of detailed digital twins mirroring our physical surroundings.
This grander metaverse fits squarely with Nokia’s Tech Vision 2030, which has two main tenets. The first is tenet is digital-physical fusion -- our digital and physical lives will become inextricably linked. The second is human augmentation. That may sound like a scary phrase to some, but our view of augmentation isn’t one of cyborgs and prosthetics. Rather it is a world where humans gain unprecedented insight into their health and lives and learn new ways to manipulate the physical world through digital means.
How do we achieve this vision? We will need ecosystem-wide innovation: new devices, software and tools; powerful computer capabilities and distributed processing; and technologies that can sense and understand the physical world and comprehend human action and intent. Underlying all of these technologies, however, will be the fabric of connectivity.
We have already laid the connectivity foundation with 5G, but as our networks become more powerful in the next decade so will the power of the metaverse. We will make big strides when 5G-Advanced networks emerge in 2025, enabling true XR experiences, but it is in the 6G era of 2030 that the full potential of the metaverse will be realized.
Nokia Bell Labs has identified six key technologies that will be vital components of future 6G networks.
Explore our 6G technologies by clicking on the diagram or button below.
While the first 6G networks are not expected to be commercially available before 2030, we are already laying their foundations through innovations in 5G-Advanced in 3GPP Releases 18 and 19, as well as marking key steps on the path towards 6G. These stepping stones include distributed massive MIMO (DmMIMO), an AI-native network fabric, new spectrum and radio architectures, and the evolution of intent-based automation.
DmMIMO is a key milestone for achieving new extreme massive MIMO cell-less wireless network concepts that use existing and new spectral bands in 6G. Nokia Bell Labs has proven in simulations that DmMIMO can increase the 5G uplink capacity between 60% and 90% compared to similarly configured systems with a single panel. We are collaborating with AT&T on the validation of DmMIMO and testing the proof-of-concept in AT&T Labs.
We expect AI/ML to evolve from being an enhancement in 5G to a foundational technology of 6G. Recognizing this, we are taking a clean-slate approach that does away with complexity and lets AI/ML determine the best way to communicate between endpoints. We’re collaborating with NTT and DOCOMO towards a first-ever 6G proof-of-concept of an AI-native air interface.
On other fronts, Nokia is actively pursuing spectrum allocation in new mid-bands from 7–15 GHz to meet the capacity needs of extreme massive MIMO. We are exploring new radio architectures and antenna designs to create low-cost solutions in these bands. We are investigating new materials, such as radio-on-glass, that allow for low-cost realization of near-THz radio systems.
One of the main pillars of 6G will be a new cognitive, simplified network architecture. We are developing cloud-based microservice networks with intent-based orchestration and automation.
In addition, Nokia is engaging with major industry peers, customers, academia and research institutions globally to shape a common view and direction for 6G that will maximize its added value. Our current key engagements span the US, Europe and APAC. Nokia plays an instrumental role in establishing Horizon Europe Smart Network and Services joint undertaking (SNS JU) through our leadership of the SNS Task Force and chairmanship of the 6G IA board. We are leading Hexa-X, which is the EU’s flagship research initiative on 6G, as well as being a founding member of the Next G Alliance and NSF RINGS.
Let’s all work together to shape 6G!