As the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID- 19 a pandemic and the world began to go into lockdown, the organizers of the 2nd 6G Wireless Summit 2020 decided to transform the leading global 6G event into a virtual one. The organizing team at the Finnish 6G Flagship program concluded that the sharing of 6G visions, research results and challenges could be realized virtually. 6G Flagship is a vigorous research and co-creation ecosystem led by the University of Oulu, which explores essential technology components and solutions needed for the 2030 era in the interrelated domains of wireless connectivity, device and circuit technologies, distributed intelligent computing, and novel applications and services.
Until now, very few major events organized with technical support of the IEEE and ComSoc have taken place online. However, feedback received by the 6G Flagship underlines the team’s landmark achievement leading the world toward other similar events realized virtually.
The virtual 6G Wireless Summit was launched in the morning of 17 March 2020, as originally planned for the physical event. A seven-member team including students, technical staff and technical program leaders had only two working days and a weekend to invent online collaboration methods and create a solid platform in conjunction with the event website at 6gsummit. com as there was no time to find another tool.
Attending the virtual 6G Wireless Summit, the 610 experts from 42 countries could stay safe in their homes or offices while having online access to 161 presentations. The virtual event demonstrated major progress since the first 6G Wireless Summit 2019, which was attended by 287 experts from 28 countries. The presentations of this year’s edition included: seven keynotes; 37 invited presentations including 20 recorded videos and 10 slide presentations with audio; 75 technical papers including 29 recorded videos and 45 slide presentations with audio; and 42 posters. At the same time, the presented papers gained a wide global audience before publication in IEEE Xplore. All accepted papers underwent rigorous peer review after submission to an open call.
In the virtual 2nd 6G Wireless Summit 2020, industry representatives expressed their views on synchronizing 6G development with upcoming World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC). The role of imaging and sensing, as integrated functions in 6G networks, was highlighted in several somewhat aligned visions of 6G systems toward 2030 with the Internet of Senses, or a similar entity, reshaping human-machine interaction. Experts also suggested possible 6G indicators that would not only measure the performance of future 6G systems but also assess novel societal and value-related aspects such as trust, open collaboration, flexibility and underserved areas. Value creation through new business models and private networks was also highlighted. Another major advancement was the political momentum behind 6G development expressed by the invited speaker from the European Commission. Major investments will be made in the new Horizon Europe program for 2021-2027 to prepare for 6G while technology development should take into account carbon neutrality by 2050 as proposed by the European Commission.
The technical program of the 6G Wireless Summit was divided into 22 sessions or thematic areas for presentations of accepted papers and a poster session, discussing key research areas toward 6G. Thematically, the papers can be broadly categorized into 6G visions, RF and hardware enablers for higher frequencies from millimeter wave (mmWave) to THz and even visible light communication (VLC), machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) and novel networking paradigms.
While the keynotes discussed visions for 6G, several technical sessions delved into the same from technology and policy perspectives. Several papers also targeted specific verticals such as eHealth, automotive applications and general machine type communication, which started in 5G, and will evolve with more features for 6G.
There was also a dedicated session on global connectivity taking into account United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which is further discussed in one of the 12 6G white paper groups currently led by 6G Flagship experts.
In the research area of higher frequencies from mmwave going into sub THz, the papers discussed implementation issues at the RF level for the solutions proposed, and challenges and a technology roadmap toward higher frequencies. On the adaptation of AI and machine learning for wireless, there were several dedicated sessions. On the networking side, on the other hand, relatively novel areas such as intelligent reflecting systems (IRS) and changes in networking bringing toward more user centric approaches were discussed. In this regard, security, block chain and edge networking for dependable communication were also highlighted in several presentations.
The poster session, which featured 42 extended abstracts, had almost the same coverage as the technical papers albeit with only brief details. Posters also provided ample evidence to new technology directions.
The timeliness of the topics was evident in the discussion forums, created for all 161 conference presentations and for general themes, where experts wrote as many as 414 posts in 87 topics in just six days, by 22 March. The live Q&As by all seven keynote speakers were the highlight of the discussion forum, defying the limitations of time zones, and providing the attendees an opportunity for direct interaction with leading experts.
Patrons of the 6G Wireless Summit – Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE, Keysight Technologies, Nokia Bell Labs, Rohde&Schwarz, Virginia Diodes, InterDigital and Wipro – were all active in different program roles, contributing to keynotes, invited talks as well as Q&A sessions.
Sharpening both 6G research visions and introducing intriguing research and development paths, the event achieved its goal. Although the virtual space at 6gsummit.com/virtual-event could hardly compete with the winter wonderland in Levi, Finland, it came with other benefits. Attendees could focus on their specific topics of interest while the pre-recorded video presentations provided deeper insights than mere slides and papers in Proceedings ever could. In addition, the online forum gave even the most silent attendees a voice and supported a more elaborate exchange of ideas in comparison with speedy Q&As in regular conference sessions.
Now, organizers have openly published all keynote presentation videos at 6gsummit.com. Work on essential 6G research topics is pushed forward in twelve 6G white papers to appear in June 2020. The 3rd 6G Wireless Summit will be held in conjunction with IEEE PIMRC 2021 on 13–16 September 2021 in Helsinki, Finland. See you all there!