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Finland is happy to connect with 6G

Thanks to its long history of wireless mobile technology innovation, Finland has positioned itself as a centre of pioneering 6G research.


As the next wireless era looms, Finnish expertise is driving higher speeds, lowered latency, expanded capacity and fortified security against cyber threats.

In late 2023, professors Mehdi Bennis and Tarik Taleb from the University of Oulu were named Highly Cited Researchers 2023 in the annual listing of the world’s most influential researchers based on publication data in the Web of Science.

This recognition encapsulates the gains made in 6G research in Finland in the university’s 6G Flagship programme, which has brought together a coalition of research institutes and companies whose network consists of some 500 academic partners from over 70 countries.

Indeed, 6G Flagship has continued to expand its global reach since it was established in 2018 as the world’s first large-scale 6G research programme.

Earlier this year, 6G Flagship signed memoranda of understanding with a trio of leading South Korean research institutions, aligning with the goal of European and Finnish research agencies to enhance 6G collaboration with South Korea. 

Professors Tarik Taleb (left) and Mehdi Bennis both work at 6G Flagship, University of Oulu.

University of Oulu

“We expect to have multiple new research projects funded on both sides by the end of 2024,” said professor Matti Latva-aho, director of 6G Flagship. “By doing so, Korea will become the most significant international partner for 6G Flagship outside Europe.”

Fittingly, the Republic of Korea was also among the many countries that Finland signed an agreement with on the democratic principles guiding 6G development at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Such international agreements are becoming commonplace in Finland’s 6G arena, such as in May 2023, when Finland signed a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Advanced Wireless Communications with the US.

“As the digital transformation accelerates, co-operation across borders is crucial to unlock the full potential of 6G technologies,” stated Pekka Rantala, head of the 6G Bridge programme at Business Finland. “We are on a good run, but to succeed we need international collaboration. We invite research organisations and system integrators to join hands with Finland's vibrant ecosystems to pool knowledge, share resources and drive innovation that benefits societies around the world."

Cultivating research collaboration is par for the course for Finland. Spearheaded by the globe-conquering Nokia, Finland’s several decades of success in telecommunications has been built from the ground up – a foundation that is made from world-leading research. With Nokia at the helm, Finland leads two European 6G flagship projects – Hexa-X and its successor, Hexa-X-II. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is also extremely active in the 6G space, recently announcing that it is developing innovative solutions for 6G technologies in Europe via the 6G-Cloud project. VTT is coordinating the project with the aim to research, develop and validate key technologies to realise an AI-native and cloud-friendly system architecture.

6G also plays an important role for a VTT project investigating how quantum computing can be used to solve the increasing network problems of congestion and performance decline. VTT is joined in the project by several local companies, including Nokia Bell Labs, Cumucore and Unitary Zero Space.

"It is crucial that Finnish companies are among the first to harness the potential of quantum computing, as we are already pioneers in the development of quantum technologies and future networks," said Kari Seppänen, the senior VTT scientist leading the project.

Cumucore CEO Jose Costa-Requena viewed that quantum computing, together with AI, is a technology that will bring mobile networks to "the next level of speed, security, and automation”. 

“Cumucore is proud to be part of this project, bringing 6G expertise to explore the potential of quantum computing to deliver human-centric but ultra-secure communications.”

Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time, Pekka Haavisto, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Advanced Wireless Communications in 2023.

Kimmo Räisäinen / MFA

Somewhat unsurprisingly, given the hype surrounding it, AI forms the backbone of many recent Finnish company developments in the 6G space.

Creanord and Lounea, for example, are together developing AI and machine learning (ML) capabilities to predict congestion in data transport networks.

“Using AI and ML to look into the future enables the operator to react before an anomaly affects the end users’ experience,” said Claus Still, CEO at Creanord. “Providing an excellent user experience is a priority for every operator.”

Creanord also teamed up with fellow Finns Netradar in 2023 to provide telecom operators a full end-to-end picture of their network performance. Netradar’s suite of AI-powered products address, among other focus areas, challenges in measuring coverage, troubleshooting problems and validating network changes.

AI is also at the core of Visidon’s image and video enhancement technologies, with its VD RAW SuperPhoto enabling smartphone users to reconstruct lost details during zooming, leading to sharper and clearer zoomed-in images.

The world’s first large-scale 6G research programme, 6G Flagship, was founded in Finland back in 2018.

Juha Tuomi

Back at the University of Oulu, research continues to be the driver of future developments in 6G and is also touching on that other white-hot topic of the current age: large language models (LLMs).

In true Finnish fashion, this is a collaborative effort. The University of Oulu, Aalto University, and the University of Helsinki have together put the call out for contributions on a first extensive 6G white paper on LLMs.

“LLM and GPT technologies are entering 6G networks and open up a world of endless possibilities for how applications and services are experienced in real-time environments,” observed Jaakko Sauvola, 6G Flagship ecosystem leader at the University of Oulu.

The future of 6G, evidently, is all about connectivity – both technically and collaboratively.

By: James O’Sullivan