Thompson Rivers University

TRU researcher designs 6G networks of the future

  Posted on: March 17, 2022

Dr. Omer Waqar

Wireless cellular technology has made incredible advances since the first call was made from a handheld mobile phone in 1973. From 1G to 6G, each new generation changes how we communicate, further impacting our daily lives.

The next horizon

“Even though the deployment of 5G has just begun, 6G technology research has already started,” says Department of Engineering faculty member Dr. Omer Waqar, who received a Discovery Grant in 2021 to focus on designing smart and reconfigurable radio environments for 6G networks.

“The current 5G network has various limitations and may not be able to support all services efficiently,” says Waqar. “For instance, with Wi-Fi at home or the cellular networks that we use, the signals come from different directions and reflect from the walls and objects surrounding us. We do not have control over these multiple reflective signals that may cancel each other before reaching our laptops or mobile phones. In the end, you get a very weak signal, leaving you with a dropped call or a limited connection. That’s why the visioning, planning and development of 6G networks have become inevitable.”

Faster, smarter and more efficient

Considered one of the core technologies in 6G mobile communication, intelligent reflecting surfaces (IRS) improve signal strength by reflecting signals in an intelligent manner.

“With IRS, when the reflector signals arrive at our mobile phones, they add up instead of cancelling each other like we see with 5G technology,” says Waqar. “The network has the ability to configure this reflecting surface so that it makes the reflections stronger, giving an improved signal.”

By using IRS with artificial intelligence frameworks, 6G technology will give networks faster speeds and reduced transmission delays and be able to support privacy-aware communication between connected objects.

“With 6G, we will be able to interact with other humans or objects in real time by extending the audio-visual experience and creating the hyper-connected cyber-physical world,” says Waqar. “For instance, we will be able to operate our refrigerators from any part of the world by just using hand gestures and without experiencing any noticeable delay. It’s a game-changing technology.”

With new cellular communication standards emerging every decade, 6G technology is expected to be available by 2030.