Finnish companies connect the dots for 6G
6G is something to smile about for the future of connectivity.Adobe
The next decade promises greater connectivity than the world has ever seen. What does 6G mean, exactly, and how is Finland leading the charge for the future of communications?
It may seem unfathomable in a world of constant notifications and social media updates, but 2.9 billion people in the world remain unconnected to the internet. That is around one-third of the world’s population, for those who came in late. Now, for all the OMGs and facepalm emojis this information may induce among those who are connected, thankfully this scenario is set to change by the end of the decade.
Thanks to 6G.
Indeed, 6G promises to usher in an era of greater connectivity than ever before – and not just by reaching many more people. The next generation of wireless technology promises faster speeds, boasting peak data rates at around one terabyte per second, a significant step up from 5G’s 20 gigabytes per second. The other benefits include lower latency and increases in capacity and reliability. Furthermore, 6G boasts enhanced security features to protect against hacking and other forms of cybercrime – welcome news for a world shaken by various turmoil in recent years. Secure and wireless data transfer is evidently now more vital than ever before.
Seamless telecommunication also directly impacts the development of other industries and the digital infrastructure of society. 6G is tipped to provide tools for the digitalisation and automation of society in the 2030s, merging the physical and digital worlds with human interaction. Eventually, the networks and the applications they support should also be ready for the quantum era.
Whilst the true capabilities and use cases will only become more apparent as 2030 approaches, one thing’s for sure – no matter what 5G conspiracy theorists might think – it is coming. And Finland is at the forefront of this development.
Still connecting people
Situated at the University of Oulu, located some 600 kilometres north of Helsinki, the world’s first large-scale 6G research programme, 6G Flagship, was founded back in 2018. 6G Flagship is a coalition of research institutes and companies whose network consists of 500 academic partners from 71 countries and 400 industry partners from 31 countries. The programme boasts leading testing infrastructure for 5G and is also set to create the very first 6G testing network.
Nokia's deep roots in connectivity stand it in good stead for the 6G future.Nokia Bell Labs
This conglomerate of Finnish expertise is involved in various EU 6G research pursuits, including two European 6G flagship projects: Hexa-Xand its successor, Hexa-X-II. At the helm of both is a familiar face for Finnish communications and connectivity: Nokia. The company has been predictably active in the 5G space worldwide and is primed for the opportunities presented by the next generation.
“In the 6G era, we will see applications that will not only connect humans with machines but also connect humans with the digital world,” envisioned Peter Vetter, the president of Bell Labs Core Research at Nokia Bell Labs, the corporation’s research arm.
“Such a secure and private connection can be used for preventive healthcare or even to create a 6G network with a sixth sense that intuitively understands our intentions, making our interactions with the physical world more effective and anticipating our needs, thereby improving our productivity,” he added.
A green ecosystem
Among the many goals of Finland’s pioneering research and innovation in the 6G arena is to achieve a secure, resilient and carbon-free European future.
6G promises peak data rates at around one terabyte per second, significantly faster than 5G.Adobe
“The crucial green transition cannot happen without digitalisation, as this helps industries reduce emissions and minimise energy use,” said Pekka Rantala, head of the 6G Bridge Program, a Business Finland-led funding programme driving developments in the 5G and 6G space. “Finland offers the world’s best innovation ecosystem for 6G development and an excellent quantum ecosystem supplementing it that is verified by large global companies.”
“The future is all about 6G, and 6G is all about Finland,” he enthused.
Yet for all the local innovation on the horizon, this is of limited value if the end user experience in the here and now is lacking. Indeed, low latency and stable jitter are critically important factors for many web apps, XR and VR, gaming, metaverse, cars, VoIP, and videoconferencing.
Helping to mitigate this problem, the Finnish duo of Creanord and Netradarhave teamed up to provide telecom operators a full end-to-end picture of their network performance: from mobile devices to the network or cloud, and transport and core networks.
“[The] Creanord solution continuously tracks network performance in backhaul and core and identifies sites and hops with degraded performance,” said Creanord CEO Jorma Hämäläinen. “Our co-operation with Netradar extends this performance visibility to cover also the radio part, and thus provides a full end-to-end view for mobile network operators to detect and fix performance degradations before they are visible to end users.”
Creanord’s technology has been implemented in over 30 countries and more than 60 networks globally.Creanord
This news is one of many recent headlines for Creanord, a specialist in improving network quality and turning data into outperforming networks.
“As operators upgrade their transport networks to support higher capacities and more service classes, also the performance measurements need to scale accordingly,” reminded Creanord’s Antti Paju.
The meta moment(um)
One of the most hotly debated new applications that 6G’s considerable horsepower will impact in future is the metaverse. Yet, for all that the pioneering technology is being touted, perhaps its most perplexing aspect for many, however, is what it is, exactly. In short, the metaverse can be described as a network of virtual worlds where people represented by avatars can live, work and move freely, explained Petra Söderling, formerly a senior advisor at Business Finland.
“It can be seen as an extension to the internet, a continuation of the lives we currently lead with our faces and fingers connected to a digital screen, our financial and other assets in a digitised form, and tracking our biological events via sensors on our bodies – biohacking. In the metaverse, your connection to the digital world is immersive,” she added.
Business is duly getting on board. It has been predicted that by 2026, 30 per cent of the business world will have products and services ready for the metaverse and 25 per cent of people will spend at least one hour a day there. With this in mind, digital agency Movya is enthusiastically wading into the arena, backed by some big names. Developed in collaboration with the global giant Amazon and fellow Finns Qvantel and – yes – Nokia, Movya Storyverse is an immersive B2B solution that seeks to meet the needs of today’s remote and hybrid work models.
The metaverse promises unforetold opportunities for the business world.Business Finland
“Movya Storyverse is built with years of experience of leveraging leading-edge 3D technologies for large-scale industrial companies’ needs of standing out with differentiating, engaging and impactful experiences for customer and employee experience,” says Marko Anttonen, CEO of Movya.
The platform has already been used by several industry leaders, including the Finnish marine and energy equipment manufacturer Wärtsilä, for delivering large-scale events such as the launch of a sustainable fuels engine that drew thousands of global participants.
“This particular campaign has strengthened our position as a leader within the maritime decarb space – allowing us an interactive platform to highlight a new product while engaging directly with members of our target audience,” told Marit Karstensen, marketing and communications director at Wärtsilä Marine Power.
A thing of the future
6G Flagship is also developing solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT), the online network of connected physical objects that exchange data with other devices and systems. The consortium is coordinating the five-million-euro SuperIoT project that harnesses the dual-mode operation of radio and, innovatively, light in order to develop a flexible IoT system that produces resource-efficient solutions.
6G is tipped to have a tremendous impact on the 4th Industrial Revolution.Adobe
“We aim to develop a new generation of sustainable and re-configurable IoT technologies, which will significantly impact how we live in future,” said project coordinator Marcos Katz.
In Finland, innovations in the IoT arena are found in the private sector, too. Wirepas launched the globe’s first non-cellular 5G network – Wirepas 5G Mesh – at Mobile World Congress 2023, a development that aims to bring affordable 5G IoT to massive enterprise networks. The network solution can be immediately deployed anywhere by anyone and runs autonomously.
“We’ve worked diligently for years to bring an affordable 5G alternative to the market, from contributing to the standard to having the first-ever 5G mesh network demonstrated at MWC,” said Teppo Hemiä, CEO of Wirepas. “This demo is a giant step in the journey of providing cutting-edge yet affordable connectivity to the massive-scale IoT needs of enterprises.”
Reaching for the stars
IoT also features in the story of Aalto University spinoff Cumucore, which specialises in providing private mobile networks. The company is taking part in the EU-funded Horizon Europe project SPRINTER, which is using photonic integration technologies to develop a complete solution tailored to the diverse needs of industrial networks underpinning the way towards the 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).
Cumucore's activities aren’t limited to this world either. Indeed, the company last year delivered a proof-of-concept project, with HPE, to the International Space Station, which verified that non-public 5G networks are a suitable technology to be used in space.
“Even with the near limitless environments and use cases that 5G theoretically supports, nothing compares to the elaborate choreography of technology, systems protocols and life and system criticality of the International Space Station,” senior product manager Mika Skarp enthused.
Back on Earth, the company’s mobile POS solution is also being deployed to help to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities in Nigeria.
While 6G is still in its early stages of development and its actual capabilities remain to be seen, its arrival will only expedite activities like this in future – truly connecting people in a way that would make Nokia proud.
Infinity and beyond
A story about Finnish innovation would be incomplete without a mention of education. Facilitated by the University of Helsinki, the Core 5G and Beyond massive open online course (MOOC) teaches the fundamental concepts behind mobile networks, focusing in particular on 5G and the envisioned future 6G networks. The course promises to offer insight into how modern and near-future mobile networks work. And, given that this is Finland, the course is offered for free.