Ten Physical Layer Challenges for Communications Engineers on The Road to 6G

There is a debate around how much better 5G is as compared to 4G. While in theory it promised evolution + revolution, we are as yet only able to experience a slow evolutionary path with the hope that the revolution part will be joining soon. 

6G intends to solve many challenges at all different levels in the coming years to provide the next generation of technology that is far superior to the current 5G technology. While many of these challenges are just vaguely known, the physical layer challenges are well defined, thanks to the all the research in the last decade or so.

Back in 2020, "The Road to 6G: Ten Physical Layer Challenges for Communications Engineers" paper identified the fundamental problems that pertain to key physical layer enablers for 6G. This included highlighting challenges related to intelligent reflecting surfaces, cell-free massive MIMO and THz communications as can be seen in the picture above. The paper analysed the theoretical modelling challenges, hardware implementation issues and scalability, among others and concluded by delineating the critical role of signal processing in the new era for wireless communications.

Prof. Emil Björnson of Wireless Communication at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden has featured regularly in our blog posts across various blogs. He and Prof. Erik G. Larsson discussed this paper in a podcast recently. The podcast is embedded below and the following is from the podcast description:

What specific research challenges did the authors identify, and what remains to be done? The conversation covers system modeling complexity, hardware implementation issues, and signal processing scalability. The article can be found here: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2004.07130 The following papers were also mentioned: https://arxiv.org/pdf/2111.15568 and https://arxiv.org/pdf/2104.15027 .

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