Oct 20, 2022

Whose experiences will shape 6G?

Last week, I moderated a panel at 6G World’s North American symposium. The panel focused on the new “experiences” that next generation networks are expected to enable. To begin with, we heard from Cathy Hackl, industry pundit and Godmother of the Metaverse. 

To complement Cathy’s largely consumer-oriented and brand-marketing insights, panelists from Mitre Labs, US Ignite and Verizon Robotics discussed an alternative way to look at 6G experiences. Their contributions highlighted the changing structure of the communications industry. We explored how external bodies and agencies peripheral to the communications industry are driving new industry dynamics. The role of spectrum regulators, the US Department of Defense and holders of licensed and unlicensed spectrum will reshape the industry’s supply-side experience. Inevitably, there will be consequences for innovation, procurement, and operations of 6G systems. 

Integrative 6G 

Unlike prior generations of wireless communications, 6G will involve the integration of several different technologies. Many will be innovative as in the case of joint communications and sensing. Others will involve step changes in performance. There will be significant improvements in position measuring accuracy, for example. There will also be an evolution in the application of AI, which is presently added to existing systems. In the future, AI will be native to 6G systems. To illustrate how that might work, the network resources involved in delivering content to a user will negotiate the best distribution method (e.g., delivery via terrestrial, non-terrestrial wireless, hybrid and/or side-link means) in real time.

In addition to innovation in core communications technologies, 6G will span technologies from adjacent ICT and vertical sectors. Distributed computing, trustworthy identity management, distributed ledger and content creation are examples of the former. Cathy even mentioned Central bank Digital Currencies, alluding to the role of payments and digital tokenization technologies in next generation user experiences.

The communications industry will also have to contend with requirements arising from 6G’s ambitions on issues of digital equity, sovereign supply chains, and sustainability. What will these imply for new technical and operational requirements?

Complexity and Collaboration

Complexity was another important theme for discussion. The scope envisaged for 6G, which goes well beyond wireless communications capabilities, significantly expands the number of technical, operational, and commercial interdependencies. Several event delegates questioned whether the current industry setup is ready to tackle these additional dimensions. Setting aside the possibility of geopolitical fragmentation, is it safe to assume a business-as-usual approach when it comes to 3GPP standardization, for example?

Collaboration among industry participants and players in external sectors will be key. This will affect established industry procedures. In this regard, there were many advocates of interoperability built on open standardization and architecting 6G as a service enabling platform. These approaches would equip developers and solution providers with the APIs and tools necessary to make the most of 6G capabilities. 

Lessons from Metaverse Standardization

While the industry focuses on standardizing network connectivity and communications, it should not be blind to developments in other parts of the 6G system. Jesse Alton, who operates under the tag @mrmetaverse, shared his experiences and journey over the last ten years towards launching the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group. Jesse’s recent work tackled interoperable avatars. He explained that the process of consensus-building and standardization was relatively straightforward. All is required was an agreement on file types. However, much bigger challenges lie ahead. How will industry players agree on interoperability standards for portals (walled gardens in communications parlance)? Would service providers agree on a standard for location information? These are necessary elements if users want their avatar to teleport between portals. 

The growing acceptance of digital assets will create opportunities to monetize digital world activities. Jesse gave the example of several artisans making and decorating a digital sword that other entities would subsequently advertise and sell to a user. Each stage of the process lends itself to a system of fractional payments. Everybody could easily get their “cut” in an “on-chain” payments system. The same model applies to condition monitoring insights from a manufacturing facility in the industrial IoT domain. In the case of the digital sword, unfortunately, the model breaks down when more than one metaverse is involved.

New Operating Models and New Experiences

To the extent that metaverse concepts are intertwined with 6G systems, the industry’s supply-side participants face fundamental challenges. Several delegates talked about collaboration as an antidote to fragmentation. This will involve adapting commercial approaches to deliver market scale. It is unclear, however, which organizations or industry sub-sectors will make the first move. Many fear the risk of yielding part of their value-chain foothold in exchange for the promise of gains in a larger addressable market.

Efforts to foster collaboration across sectors and industry alliances will help. But they can only go so far. Experiences from metaverse standardization suggest that while there is common interest in establishing standards-based intellectual property, there comes a point where fiduciary responsibilities take over. At that point, organizations start to lock down the standards for the benefit of their shareholders. This is to be expected in commercially oriented industry-alliance initiatives.

In the week that celebrated World Standards Day, it was therefore interesting to see the European Commission’s political agreement on improving the governance and integrity of the European standardization system. As with measures to lead on privacy and regulation of digital markets, its efforts are likely to spill over to other geographic domains and across industry boundaries. Thus, while the metaverse experiences will keep users entertained, the experiences of developing, standardizing, commercializing and operating 6G systems seem likely to present many new challenges to industry participants.

Image credits: 6Gworld.com and Julien Tromeur (via unsplash.com) 


  1. 24 Oct 2022 update

    The winning ingredients for social commerce in China

    The evolution of social commerce in China offers a glimpse of the possibilities. By forging partnerships with wildly popular social influencers and participating in live-stream shopping—an experience that combines instant purchasing of a featured product and audience participation through chat or reaction buttons—brands in China have achieved conversion rates of almost 30 percent on social platforms. This is up to ten times higher than conversion in conventional e-commerce. Last year, goods and services purchased through live-stream shopping in China represented $132 billion, or 5 percent of total e-commerce gross merchandise value (GMV). More broadly, Chinese consumers spent more than double that amount—$352 billion (or 13 percent of total e-commerce)—on all social commerce.


  2. 25 October 2022

    Panorama des enjeux liés aux développements des métavers

    I. Une opportunité culturelle pour la France
    - Les métavers, de nouveaux médias immersifs et créatifs
    - Promouvoir la filière française et européenne des industries culturelles et créatives
    - La formation et la recherche au soutien des enjeux de souverainetés

    II. Analyser la chaîne de valeur des métavers
    - Dans quelles briques technologiques investir ?
    - Cartographie des métavers et des acteurs
    - Actifs numériques et économie des créateurs

    III. Des freins structurels technologiques à dépasser
    - Des infrastructures technologiques à perfectionner
    - Développer les outils de création 3D
    - La quête de l’interopérabilité

    IV. Repenser notre rapport au numérique
    - Acceptabilité sociale, enjeux environnementaux : pourquoi le métavers soulève de véritables questions de société
    - En finir avec la captation de nos attentions
    - Des sujets de santé publique

    V. Anticiper des cadres de régulation adaptés
    - Par-delà le RGPD, le DSA et le DMA
    - Les identités numériques au sein des métavers
    - Vers la privatisation des outils d’enquête et des procédures de justice


  3. 27 Oct 2022 update

    6GWorld session recordings - https://www.6gworld.com/6gsymposium-fall-2022-recorded-sessions/

  4. 4 Nov 2022 update

    The Metaverse Standards Forum: What you need to know

    Creating an open and inclusive metaverse will require the development and adoption of interoperability standards. That's the tall order of the Metaverse Standards Forum.


  5. 19 April 2023 update

    The Metaverse Standards Forum announced it has been incorporated as an independent non-profit industry consortium.

    The news comes after nine months of incubation by the Khronos Group. The forum’s mission continues unchanged—to enable, foster and promote cooperation and coordination over metaverse-related interoperability between standards organizations, companies, and universities.

    In June 2022, the forum was launched and driven by the Khronos Group. Today, with over 2,400 members and multiple active working and exploratory groups focused on driving pragmatic interoperability advances, the Metaverse Standards Forum has organized its own governance, finances, and operations.

    The working group activities remain freely accessible to any member, while new paid membership tiers enable members to be elected to leadership roles in the forum while funding forum projects.

    “Interoperability is the key to the metaverse scaling to its full potential beyond siloed games, experiences, and worlds, and the unprecedented level of participation in the forum demonstrates strong industry interest in the broad cooperation necessary to bring that vision to life,” said Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and initial president of the Metaverse Standards Forum, in a statement.

    He added, “The forum does not itself develop standards but exists to help accelerate the mission of any industry initiative working for metaverse interoperability through fostering participation, building cooperative consensus and insights, and driving wider visibility for their efforts. We invite all interested organizations to participate in the now fully independent forum.”