6G-ANNA: Germany and the EU reclaim their position as technology leaders with the sixth generation of mobile communications
FAU contributes to development of 6G in great parts
The fifth generation of mobile communications 5G was only introduced in 2020, and now the German government is already providing funding for research into its successor. The industrial package 6G-ANNA, in which FAU is involved, is aimed at spurring the development of 6G from Germany and Europe.
6G-ANNA, short for 6G-Access, Network of Networks, Automation & Simplification, brings together 34 partners from industry and academia, coordinated by Nokia. Other partners include Airbus, Ericsson, Siemens and Vodafone. FAU is represented by the Chair of Electric Smart City Systems, Professor Norman Franchi, and his team. The expert for communications systems was involved in developing 5G from the outset.
Establishing independent expertise early on
The aim of 6G-ANNA is to establish wide-ranging expertise in the future generation of mobile communications in Germany by encouraging research and industrial projects from a very early stage. For this reason, the German federal government launched calls for applications for funding just two years after 5G was introduced. 38.4 million euros have been dedicated to 6G-ANNA.
“Yes, it is extremely unusual for funding to start so soon. However, it is crucial if Germany and Europe are to become well established as experts in the market for mobile communications,” Norman Franchi explains the reasons for the timing. “By becoming involved in research in the next few years, we can have a considerable influence on the standardization of 6G. And those who are involved in the standardization process will also have a major role later on in the development of products.”
The last two to three years have shown how quickly supply chains can become threatened due to international tensions, he continues. He hopes that by undertaking early research work and encouraging collaboration between science and industry, Europe will be able to avoid entering a position of dependency when it comes to 6G.
Although other industrial projects are set to follow, 6G-ANNA is considered a lighthouse project and will serve as the basis for consensus across Europe. “At the end of the day, 6G-ANNA sheds light on the big picture. It is the answer to the question of what 6G will be,” says Professor Franchi.
Nuremberg Metropolitan Region to become the location for mobile communications again
One of Norman Franchis’ personal ambitions is to make the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region back into the location for mobile communications that it was in the 1980s and 90s. He believes that the Federal government’s considerable investment in the required research work will act as a signal to businesses and encourage them to settle with confidence in the region and create new jobs.
Independent, collaborative, capable of learning: 6G is different
Within the 6G-ANNA network, FAU is responsible for developing a new network concept: context-aware collaborative 6G IIoT Networking for Autonomous Systems. Three aspects are particularly important. First of all, instead of one central network, there are a number of independent sub-networks, also known as a “network of networks”. One enormous advantage is the lack of dependence on one central body. Independent does not mean isolated, however. Rather, it provides more potential for mutual support and growth. The individual networks thrive on collaborating and sharing ideas with each other, thereby contributing to their mutual continued development and optimization. They are also capable of adapting to their surroundings.
Features such as these will benefit processes such as collision-free and safe autonomous driving or the joint processing of resources. Autonomous systems from industry and public life such as drones, cars or robots will be able to communicate directly and ad hoc with each other in sub networks in future in order to cope with processes that can only be completed by working in cooperation with others. The success of such collaborations hinges on the systems’ context awareness – in other words their awareness of and ability to adapt to their working environment – their features and the options available to them for influencing applications.
Smart city – the perfect field of application
Initially, 6G is intended predominantly for use in industry and public life, in areas where interruptions to supply could cause significant damage if there are no reliable networks. This was already the idea behind 5G, which is why it was first used in the automotive industry and manufacturing.
When it comes to the future of the new generation of mobile communications, Professor Franchi believes that “smart cities will be the perfect location for using 6G. Forecasts predict that by 2050, two thirds of the population will live in cities. A stable connection of infrastructure, public institutions, companies and people will be even more important then than it is today.”
Basic research for the 6th generation of mobile communications
FAU is not only involved in the industrial project 6G-ANNA, but also Open6GHub. Here the focus is purely on basic research concentrating on connecting citizens through sustainable, energy-saving and secure networks. The Open6GHub is one of a total of four 6G research hubs funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It will receive approximately 68 million euros between 2022 and 2025. The research conducted by the research hubs will be taken further in subsequent industrial projects.
In addition, FAU is represented by Norman Franchi in the “6G platform – The platform for future communication technologies and 6G” funded by BMBF. This initiative aims to pool scientific opinions on how to design the content of 6G and set up a scientific and organizational framework for accompanying the processes required for the German-European 6G program to be implemented successfully.
6G-Anna – Quick facts
Name: 6G-Access, Network of Networks, Automation & Simplification
Number of partners: 34
Funding: 38,4 million Euros
- Research and patents: 2022 bis 2025
- Commencement of standardization: 2025/2026
- Market launch: 2030
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Norman Franchi
Chair of Electric Smart City Systems