6G will end ‘best efforts’ with SLAs, says SoftBank exec

Ryuji Wakikawa SoftBank.jpg

The next generation of mobile communications will need to offer 100% global coverage with guaranteed service levels, according to SoftBank’s head of advanced technology.

The company, which runs mobile networks in Japan and was the major shareholder in Sprint before its merger with T-Mobile US, has set out its ideas for 6G, the sixth generation of mobile.

SoftBank is also one of the investors in OneWeb, the UK-based low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite company.

Ryuji Wakikawa (pictured), a former director of network strategy at Sprint, said that 6G “will transform mobile networks into network infrastructure that will support the digitalization of all industries”.

He added, in a presentation to SoftBank, that “with 6G, every business across Japan will be built on the foundation of mobile networks, just as the internet became the sole common basic infrastructure for online communications around the world”.

But there are still many challenges for 6G, which is known as “beyond 5G” in Japan, says Wakikawa.

One of the biggest is an end to “best-effort”, the basis of internet protocol (IP) communications. “Small network delays or packet loss were unlikely to inconvenience people’s daily lives such as online shopping and video streaming,” writes Wakikawa.

“In the future, however, 6G mobile networks will underpin network infrastructure that supports a variety of industries. SoftBank will accommodate complete end-to-end communication for customers with appropriate service level agreements (SLAs) in its network by leveraging mobile edge computing (MEC) and network slicing.”

Because 6G will be so essential, networks “will require the elimination of dead spots where people live and total coverage around the globe”, he writes.

This is why SoftBank is investing in what he calls non-terrestrial network (NTN) solutions that use high-altitude platforms (HAPS) as well as LEO and geosynchronous Earth orbiting (GEO) satellites. Wakikawa is a board member of HAPSMobile, backed by SoftBank. 

“This will enable SoftBank to offer internet services to more than three billion people around the world who are currently unable to access the internet,” writes Wakikawa.

“It will also allow mobile network access at sea, in mountainous areas and the upper atmosphere, where the installation of base stations has been impossible to date. As the underlying infrastructure, 6G networks will pave the way for new industries that enable autonomous driving, flying taxis and drone-based delivery services, among others.”