6G Mobile Communications

A new dimension

With 6G, we are taking mobile communications into a new dimension. While 4G was dedicated to the exchange of information between people, and 5G advanced the communication between machines, the upcoming generation aims to interconnect humans and machines in such a way that the merging of the physical and virtual worlds is completed.

Thus, 6G mobile communications opens the door to entirely new applications and business models: from digital twins and augmented and extended reality to collaborative robots. For this purpose, real actions must be mirrored into virtual spheres without delay. Therefore, 6G relies on speeds of several hundred Gbit/s, even lower latency, universal availability, and higher energy efficiency. 

In short: 6G is changing the technological rules of the game. Therefore, we have identified several key themes in which we pioneer. This way, we can keep the window of time between basic research and the development of market-ready products as small as possible.

Mobile communications with many facets

Even though it will take several years until the next standard is established, it is already becoming clear what 6G will be capable of.

Artificial Intelligence



Increasingly complex and sometimes conflicting requirements demand ever higher decision-making dynamics from mobile communications. A promising solution lies in the unique combination of radio technology and Artificial Intelligence. This is because smart 6G networks make it possible to transmit even the largest amounts of data under a wide variety of conditions efficiently and without interference. 

Hybrid radio networks



The times when only radio masts shaped the image of mobile communications are definitively over. Now, radio is also ascending to the skies. There, a number of airborne and space objects await to form a dense hybrid network consisting of terrestrial and non-terrestrial components, in order to overcome the spatial boundaries of wireless communication.

Joint communication and sensing


Mobile communications with its own senses? This could soon become a reality, because 6G equips communication with radar capabilities. Thus, radio systems can perceive their physical environment and automatically detect objects, surfaces, and movements using reflected radiation.

More energy efficiency



Mobile communications and sustainability do not have to be contradictory. Despite increasing data rates, 6G is evolving into a true efficiency specialist that consistently minimizes the CO₂ footprint. This is ensured by a wide range of methods and tools that have a power-saving effect.

New frequency ranges



More users, more throughput, more services – all this is promised by the 6G standard. However, with a further increase in data rates, the radio systems are increasingly reaching their limits. Therefore, entirely new frequency ranges will be tapped for the next generation.

6G research makes it possible

3D networks

Everywhere, anytime, and ubiquitous – for mobile communications to fulfill the promise of universal availability, it has become clear over the past few years that a restriction to terrestrial connectivity is not sufficient. The "Non-Terrestrial Networks" of the fifth generation of mobile communications, which integrate satellites into the communications infrastructure, will be further diversified and expanded by an additional dimension with 6G. Ground, air, and space combine to form multi-layered 3D networks, for instance, incorporating drones, airplanes, or High Altitude Platform Stations (HAPS) into mobile communications in addition to satellites. This increases its resilience to external influences, but with every additional layer and element, the need for coordination also grows.

We are addressing this challenge in various ways. To replicate the processes and structures of the highly dynamic and complex 3D networks, we have developed a 6G-capable system-level simulator that can evaluate potentials and limits in practice-relevant scenarios. Furthermore, we investigate how terrestrial and non-terrestrial radio transmission can coexist in the same frequency bands without interfering with each other. Here, we are developing AI methods and simulation tools that can harmonize the interplay of multiple radio systems. In addition, we are researching new waveforms for 3D networks that are so energy-efficient that even capacity-limited satellites can process high data rates. 

Network energy saving

Combating climate change is one of the central tasks for humanity in the 21st century. The Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal commit the economy and society to become CO₂-neutral by 2050 at the latest – an ambitious goal to which mobile communications must also contribute. Although wireless communication becomes more efficient with each generation, 6G risks – as is the case with 5G – losing these benefits as the demand for data and thus the need for electricity will grow rapidly in the 2030s. Consequently, accompanying measures must be developed that decouple data volume from energy consumption. The formula is: More performance, less power.

Decarbonizing mobile communications is one of our core concerns. We apply targeted methods where particularly significant effects are expected. Therefore, our research activities focus on base stations, which are responsible for over 70 percent of the energy consumption of networks. The key is network energy saving: Certain components of the base stations are intelligently put into different states of wakefulness and sleep, so that the energy consumption can be reduced at any time depending on the volume of data transmitted, without affecting the users. To identify, assess, and refine the most effective methods in this area, we are working on a 6G-capable simulator for network energy saving. 

Artificial Intelligence

With 6G, an always available system is emerging that ensures access to the edge and cloud in every environment and situation. This hyperconnectivity is hardly manageable with conventional methods – autonomous networks are required so that the massive volume of data can be coordinated in real time and without interference. The latest breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence thus become the central driver of the sixth generation. An AI-capable mobile communications system undergoes self-organized and self-optimized learning processes that enable the network to make intelligent decisions and solve problems. However, a challenge lies in tailoring the AI methods to the specific conditions of the upcoming standard.

Our research addresses the topic of resource allocation. We are investigating how wireless networks can use Artificial Intelligence to automatically adapt to changing conditions and requirements in order to dynamically distribute the available bandwidth and anticipate any problems. One machine learning method that is particularly in our focus is federated learning. This refers to the decentralized training of neural networks directly on the end device. Only the results are sent to central servers so that the model optimizations can in turn be made available to everyone. In order to open up this learning process for 6G, we are designing a federated learning simulation. 

Industrial real-time communication

One central promise that the 6G standard aims to fulfill is real-time capability with extremely low latencies of under 100 μs. However, 6G can only play this card if the reliability of data flow is fully ensured, since any failed transmission would increase latency again. Especially mission-critical applications cannot afford outages or delays, as this would lead to significant production losses or safety risks. The challenge for mobile communications lies in dealing with so-called "blockages," which are physical obstacles that reflect or weaken signals, thereby severely impairing transmission quality.

Real-time and reliability come as a package deal with us. The focus is on industrial halls: we research technologies to enable reliable real-time radio even amidst metal walls and shadowing zones for mobile participants. This includes fast dynamic rerouting: if an obstacle is detected, the network can set up an automatic detour and send the data traffic via an alternative path. Another focus of our work is on sub-networks in robots and machines. With "UWIN," we are developing a radio solution that specializes in delay-free and stable communication within such small, local networks. Additionally, we are working on making Time-Sensitive Networking universally usable for 6G. Through prioritization and coordination, it is guaranteed that critical information always arrives at the right place at the right time. 

V2X communication

5G has paved the way for connected mobility, now 6G is set to enable its ultimate breakthrough. The focus is on the transformation of vehicles into intelligent communication centers capable of making data-driven decisions. To this end, vehicles detect traffic dynamics, replicate these in the form of virtual twins, and initiate a continuous exchange of information with other traffic elements. The extremely low latencies of 6G enable the coordination of traffic participants in real time, so that immediate responses can be made to sudden, unpredictable situations. This improves traffic safety and flow.

An essential component of this V2X connectivity is the sidelink technology, which creates the prerequisite for direct communication between vehicles. We are researching how to implement sidelink in higher frequency ranges and will further develop the underlying concepts at the same time. One option is to link it with the joint communication and sensing approach. Here, we are investigating to what extent the capture of sensor data and the dissemination of the information derived from it can be combined in the same radio channel. In addition, we are working on optimizing vehicle communication using Artificial Intelligence. Such a smart sidelink relies on local learning processes in the vehicle, which reduce the data volume and strengthen data protection. 

Current research projects on 6G mobile communications

  • 6G SENTINEL is a Fraunhofer lighthouse project. Through its lighthouse projects, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft sets strategic priorities to develop specific solutions that will benefit German industry. In the 6G SENTINEL project, five participating Fraunhofer Institutes are developing key technologies for the impending 6G mobile communications standard.

    One focus of Fraunhofer IIS is on system level simulations for future hybrid networks in order to comprehensively test the integration of satellites into 6G mobile networks.

  • 6G-SKY – 6G for Connected Sky

    In the 6G-SKY project, solutions for the next generation of mobile communications are being developed to ensure reliable and robust networking on the ground and in the air. 6G-SKY is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action in the framework of the European research initiative CELTIC-NEXT.

    Fraunhofer IIS leads the German project consortium, advances 6G system level simulations and participates in technology demonstrations of 6G links via satellite and terrestrial 6G links.

  • 6G-SHINE – SHort range extreme communication IN Entities

    The 6G-SHINE project aims to develop technological components for wireless subnetworks and to prepare them for the future 6G standard. These are highly localized radio networks within machines. 

    The Fraunhofer IIS focuses on the macro diversity of the subnetworks, especially multi-frequency communication and collaborative reception, and creates a proof of concept for this. 

  • USWA – Ultra scalable wireless access

    USWA addresses real-time capable wireless industrial communication to accelerate the transition from cable to radio. It explores a mesh network design that takes into account the specific conditions of industrial environments, thereby enabling delay-free transitions between radio networks. 

    The Fraunhofer IIS conducts proof-of-concept studies for real-time mesh systems that meet the 6G requirements in terms of high reliability and low latency. 

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