“While 5G commercialisation is still in its initial stage, it’s never too early to start preparing for 6G”. That was a recent comment by Sunghyun Choi, Head of the Advanced Communications Research Centre at Samsung Research. With predictions pointing towards 6G becoming commercialised sometime in the 2030’s, optimistic experts believe that early commercialisation of 6G could be with us as soon as 2028. With 5G currently being rolled out across the globe; what skills are currently in demand for telecoms engineers looking to develop 6G and what will be the skills in demand for the coming years? We take a closer look in this article.
It is no secret that China is at the forefront of creating usable 6G network technology, having patented 35% of the nearly 38,000 patents related to the technology, according to the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). The US (in second place) has reportedly managed to patent around 18%. The race for 6G development has also seen China launch the world’s first 6G satellite into space back in November 2020, but despite this, the telecoms industry is still several years away from agreeing on 6G’s specifications, so whilst advancements are being made, the technology being trialled may not make it into the final standard.
Europe, not wanting to be left behind has committed (via The European Commission), an indicative budget of €900 million towards what is known as the Joint Undertaking on Smart Networks and Services (SNS JU). This body will oversee the actual 6G research calls for proposals under Horizon Europe.
With so much research, investment and specifications yet to be completed, here’s what we currently know about the technical skills in demand currently to progress the development of 6G.
6G jobs in the market
Though still in its infancy stages, there are 6G job are being advertised by several firms, all with a focus on research. Most recently, Apple grabbed headlines by advertising for Wireless Research Systems Engineer dedicated to 6G (based out of their San Diego office), in what they described as “an opportunity to create next generation wireless technology that will have deep impact on future”. Quite what that impact will be is pure speculation at this moment in time.
University College London (UCL), in the UK, are hiring for a Research Fellow in 6G Wireless Communications. The purpose of this role is to assist with the development of 6G radios which will involve creating new fundamental transceiver designs by developing new teaching and learning algorithms in the context of multiuser self-optimising communications.
Even though China is leading the 6G race, roles at Huawei appear to be limited in their visibility. However, with the Chinese telecoms giant reportedly set to launch two 6G satellites into space mid 2021, it’s only a matter of time before they are advertising for roles within 6G.
Skills needed for the future.
So, what skills are in demand now and what do we envisage being the skill sets in demand in the coming months and years? From the literature currently published, engineers who have a deep understanding of working in the cloud as well as wireless technology should keep building upon their knowledge as this will be a key component of 6G.
It’s been suggested that the next generation of radio equipment should have artificial intelligence (AI) as a functionality, enabling it to possess the intelligence to identify hidden terminal problems through interacting with the radio environment and optimise itself to avoid them. So, engineers with a keen interest in problem solving & understanding of machine learning concepts will certainly be in demand. AI will push self-optimisation to the next level when it comes to 6G technology.
Other in demand skill sets will be engineers who can specify RAN protocols; have a deep understanding of multi-antenna techniques and procedures such as Massive MIMO.
With limited understanding of 6G in the current environment, it’s difficult to make any concrete predictions. However, with developments being released regularly, it’s exciting to see how this technology is developing and what this could mean for engineers in the telecommunications industry in the future.