6G-REFERENCE project envisions cell-free comms in urban areas

Monday, 29 April, 2024

6G-REFERENCE project envisions cell-free comms in urban areas

6G-REFERENCE, 6G Hardware Enablers for Cell Free Coherent Communications and Sensing, is an EU-funded project that envisions a future where urban areas are equipped with sustainable solutions that can cope with the ever-increasing traffic demands and population densification, while providing disruptive capabilities like the materialisation of the internet of sense.

The project will seek to develop integrated circuit (IC) and antenna component solutions, including dynamic frequency and spatial antenna filtering to enable efficient spectrum co-existence schemes. It will also deploy practical hardware enablers in terms of complexity, cost and power consumption that could end up constituting a reference design for future 6G-distributed radios.

The solution envisioned by 6G-REFERENCE consists of ultra-dense, cell-free deployments for joint coherent communications and sensing at cm-waves, which balance the benefits of sub-6 GHz (eg, reduced pathloss) and mmWave (eg, wide bandwidth) ranges. These systems face five fundamental challenges:

  • The need for accurate synchronisation among distributed radio units.
  • Fronthaul data distribution.
  • Integration of sensing capabilities.
  • Low complexity/cost/consumption radios.
  • Coexistence with other services.

These challenges will be tackled with a methodology based on exploring radio system operation in the 10–15 GHz range, developing hardware concepts and showing feasibility in CMOS, and using additive manufacturing for antenna arrays and nanotechnology for sensors.

The 6G-REFERENCE methodology will allow the project to create practical IC and antenna systems for 6G applications, chasing the following objectives:

  • To have innovations for transceiver cm-wave radio frequency (RF) hardware addressing the data capacity and scheduling challenge of D-MIMO.
  • To create novel solutions for accurate over-the-air frequency, phase and time synchronisation.
  • To provide new RF and antenna components to extend spatial and frequency domain selective capabilities at reduced complexity, cost and energy consumption.
  • To offer hardware solutions with low complexity, low cost and low power consumption.
  • To implement coexistence with existing services in the 10–15 GHz range.

The innovation and research project will run until December 2026, funded by the Horizon Europe Program of the European Commission, as part of Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU). It is a joint collaboration of 10 research and industry partners from eight European countries.

Image credit: iStock.com/Oselote

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