6G Research and Innovation Lab to Open in Montreal

By: Lee Rickwood

January 15, 2022

Leading international technology firms and Canadian academic institutions are forming a partnership to push the development and implementation of 6G sixth generation wireless communications technologies.

Plans calls for an applied research and innovation lab to be set up in Montreal, where the latest applications for advanced 6G networks are likely to stretch well beyond our familiar mobile uses of today into a world of wireless cognition, in which machine learning and network intelligence is as important as speed. That opens the door to on-demand immersive virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) experiences, ubiquitous instant communications at scale, pervasive intelligence and “sensing-as-a-service”, and the ever-expanding, ever-interconnecting Internet of Things (IoT), which itself will gain some smarts as AI is applied to what is now being called the “Quantum Internet of Things”.

Unleashed by new spectrum bandwidth and speed capabilities, 6G promises extremely high capacity and reliability: max speeds of one terabit per second (Tbps) for a connected device are often touted. That’s a thousand times than the top one gigabits per second speed available on some home Internet networks today. It’s 100 times faster than 10 Gbps, the theoretical top speed of 5G.

(Recent media reports on 6G developments in China indicate that a research team there achieved a 6G-level wireless transmission speed of 206.25 Gbps in the lab.)

With all this new capacity rushing towards us, industry analysts say mobile network providers can adopt flexible decentralized business models for 6G, with local spectrum licensing, spectrum sharing and slicing, infrastructure sharing, and intelligent automated management underpinned by mobile edge computing, artificial intelligence, short-packet communication and blockchain technologies.

Even beyond developing new speeds, bandwidths, and business models, many observers say the full realization of 6G potential requires a “fundamental rearchitecting of the Internet” from a closed point-to-point configuration to an “Open Grid” concept, a full capacity network accessible from everywhere and available to all.

Key partners in the new Canadian 6G initiative (there are other advanced Wi-Fi development partnerships elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe, for example, in which Canada is a participant) are VMware, the U.S.-based multi-cloud service provider; Mitacs, a Canadian non-profit research agency, and the international standards agency, IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

VMware, Mitacs and IEEE say they will establish an R&I centre in Montreal where researchers will develop Open Grid infrastructure that bridges technologies from the satellite, wireless, networks and cloud industries. This infrastructure platform will serve as the application development platform for IEEE Future Networks Initiative’s Connecting the Unconnected Challenge, which seeks novel solutions for universal and affordable Internet access. In addition, researchers will be able to test solutions in real-world environments via Open Grid Alliance Innovation Zones and IEEE FNI testbeds.

Initial applied research projects will focus in the areas of:

  • Sustainable Grid: Create a sustainable Open Grid with an international research team to enable access to an ever-wider global pool of physical, digital, and biological resources.
  • Clean Tech: Contribute to a better environment for the planet in accordance with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals included in the VMware 2030 Agenda.
  • Digital Equity: Address the digital divide with practical and novel solutions, in partnership with IEEE, to connect the unconnected and ensure everyone can reap benefits of the digital society.

“Connecting rural, remote, and Indigenous communities is critical to driving innovation in every part of Canada,” explained John Hepburn, CEO of Mitacs when the new initiative was announced. “Mitacs is thrilled to be collaborating with VMware as part of the Digital Equity Grid Innovation initiative. This initiative will improve connectivity; enable local, national, and international research collaboration; and support the development of an innovation ecosystem that leverages local strengths.”

The 6G partnership extends to the Open Grid Alliance (OGA), and that need for a redesign of how the Internet delivers content across emerging modern networks. “The Grid” will help cloud, developers, technology providers, communication service providers (CSPs), Internet service providers (ISPs), develop opportunities for end users, enterprise customers, and mobile subscribers, among others, so as to allow:

  • Producers and consumers to freely exchange assets
  • Borderless data centre with geo-distributed pools computing resources
  • Self-optimized and self-organized networks with autonomic control
  • Resources to be placed and allocated as needed in real time

“The Grid, along with its optimization models, AI algorithms, and control policies, will contribute substantially to the revolution of the next-generation Internet,” said Kim Khoa Nguyen, director of IoT and Cloud Computing Laboratory, University of Quebec’s Ecole de Technologie Superieure (ÉTS).

The Open Grid is too big, too complex, and too important for any single company to own, organizers point out. It must be delivered by an ecosystem of companies and organizations. It must define open interfaces that prescribe interoperability, but which also allow for commercial differentiation and proprietary implementations.

“OGA is a must when considering that every device used by humans down to the smallest and simplest machines will have some form of electronic intelligence and require network access and resources,” added Vincent Aimez, vice president, Partnerships and Knowledge Transfer, University of Sherbrooke. Thus, we want and need the intelligence, resources and access to be available at the edge of the network for a real decentralized Internet with guaranteed interoperability and lightning-fast new technology deployment.”

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graphic shows hand holding interconnected wired gloabe

VMware, Mitacs and IEEE will establish an R & I centre in Montreal where researchers will develop new 6G technologies for the satellite, wireless, networks and cloud industries.

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