Networks have traditionally been measured according to their speed, capacity and latency, but the 6G era will require a new architecture for a new set of values. Sustainability, openness, digital inclusion, privacy and trust are becoming the new key metrics for networking.
Our research explores the potential for a new architecture with seven distinct design criteria: cloud platform, simplification and sustainability, flexibility, programmability, specialization, robustness and security, and native integration of AI/ML capabilities.
An operator might focus on sustainability by creating a zero-emissions network where every aspect of the network’s operation is designed to minimize its CO2 footprint.
An operator might deploy a network slice specialized for the metaverse, enabling immersive experiences like extended reality (XR), holographic telepresence and digital twinning.
An enterprise might build a network for connecting the growing multitude of low-power devices and sensors, requiring tailored features and functions.
A clear commitment to "design-for-sustainability" is important. Simplification of the architecture and signalling procedures as well as providing more flexibility and dynamicity in function placement will reduce the amount of signalling and overall energy consumption, decoupling energy growth from traffic growth.
6G will allow every network to be tailored specifically for its operator’s needs. Mobile networks and services will be built almost like Lego sets, with each network function comprising a “brick.” Open interfaces will allow customers to easily assemble these bricks, integrating services and functions from multiple vendors.
The distinction between RAN and core network will blur, allowing for a more direct communication between RAN and core network functions. Although the concepts of RAN and core network won’t disappear entirely, we can enrich interactions between the two, collocate functions and even merge similar functions.
The 6G architecture will come with advanced domain automation functionalities, providing orchestration and automation across multiple network domains, possibly spanning multiple stakeholders, multiple administrative domains and resources beyond the traditional mobile network.
6G will need to be flexible in its support of developing technologies and underlying cloud capabilities. Furthermore, its architecture must be flexible enough to work for large-scale wide-area network deployments as well as for extremely local on-premises, personal-area networks and 6G subnetworks.