India's 6G vision unleashes a new paradigm for aeronautical excellence, transforming civil aviation by unleashing connectivity across dimensions
While 5G delivers highquality services mostly in a two-dimensional terrestrial area covering our planet's surface, with 6G it will touch three dimensions. The standard definitions include all kinds of non-terrestrial networks, especially Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), High-Altitude Platforms (HAPs), (self-) flying taxis and civil aircraft. In terms of its critical applications, 6G will add and connect civil aircraft to existing satellite networks complementing the cellular terrestrial network.
India has also unveiled the Bharat 6G Vision Document. Recognising the criticality of 6G and its applications, especially in aerospace and civil aviation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Bharat 6G Vision Document and launched the 6G research and development test bed last year. The document prioritises the 6G as the key technology in boosting economic growth and the faster adaptation of new technology in India. How is it unfolding?
Building on the existing 5G, which is broadly defined in the scale of speeds up to 10 gigabits per second, while 6G starts with ultra-low latency with speeds up to 1 Terabits per second. So, the 6G the starting point is the Terahertz (Thz) frequency band, super antenna, advanced duplex technologies, and spectrum sharing with the evolution of network topology and the use of AI from the very start.
While the integration to 6G is promising for the service coverage italso offers complex challenges due to the so far rather closed systems. Based on the 6G, all emerging technologies and concepts such as Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) can provide a basis for fully integrating aeronautical systems into their terrestrial counterpart.
How it is being integrated into aeronautical communication and services, cutting-edge research is building the framework for collecting, monitoring and distributing resources in the sky among heterogeneous flying objects. According to a 6G expert in the world's leading 6G flagship research lab at the University of Oulu, its revolutionary impact on aviation will be radically transformative, said: "This offers immense possibilities for high-performance services for a new era of 6G in the aeronautical applications." He adds: "The 6G's application in aeronautics will drive the aeronautical framework as we further succeed in bringing emerging applications like Aeronautical Edge Computing (AEC), aircraft-as-a-sensor, and in-cabin networks among the host of other applications entirely based on connectivity."
6G DIMENSIONS FOR AVIATION
Generally, there is a consensus on the value of frequency spectrum usage for commercial purposes and the need to auction segments of spectrum to enable telcos to provide services.
In the last couple of years, satellite and aeronautical networks have attracted a lot of attention to establish network ubiquity. In the context of 6G communication, aeronautical networks play a major role in complementing terrestrial networks.
Most of the emerging 6G technologies include cognitive spectrum sharing, new communication paradigms (e.g., quantum communication, semantic communication), Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven communication, Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), localisation and sensing, extreme performance guarantees, security, privacy, and sustainability. So based on 6G's which include the Quantum and AI as the key functionality embedded, it will align to aeronautical networks with sheer speed—some call it the unprecedented scale–in its entirety.
Additionally, 6G can enable multiple applications of sensing inside and outside an aircraft which is limited in its scope today. Already embedded with AI capability, The 6G can check aircraft maintenance and conditions in real-time. More so, crucially, it can point out the micro parts of the aircraft and predict the possible risk of malfunctioning.
Simply, the role of 6G is radically different as it is the first technology which can expand across multiple functionalities, can integrate several areas of complex systems between terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks. Moreover, that is highly required in aviation with multiple commands and frequencies to guide the aircraft—both civil and military.
EMERGING TECH FOR INDIA'S AVIATION GROWTH STORY
India's transportation system is on a revolutionary growth path. Among the very few high-performing economies of the world, India witnesses a steady increase in urbanisation, growing income parity, and crossmass movement. The data itself talks about the rapid growth as Civil aviation has doubled in the last nine years. In fact, by 2030, it will surpass 50 crore passengers from 14.5 crore passengers.
So, the pace of developing is staggering in building infrastructure and connectivity. A look at the aviation infrastructure growth in India indicates the continuity of such rapid growth. For example, India has last nine years, we have built 74 airports and heliports. Additionally, there is a huge potential to be explored both in terms of passenger traffic and infrastructure. According to the Civil Aviation Ministry, India will have close to 98,000 crore capex plans in place in the next three to four years for aviation. This will cover 42 brownfield airports and three greenfield airports. Currently, there are six metros in the country and they generate around 220 million on an annual basis. This throughout is likely to increase to 425 million after adding Mumbai and Jewar metros. With such scale, India gets the tag of having one of the largest airports in the world even beyond Atlanta airport. Aircraft capacity of 400 in 2013 has now grown to 700 today and in the next five years, this number will increase to 1,200. Along with increasing fleet capacity, Civil Aviation will expand to tier 2 and tier 3 cities.
And the pace of the development in the already crowded space and frequencies, what will be required is the existing 5G and futuristic 6G technology to be fully integrated to achieve such efficacy and functional standards.
Overall, the 6G will explore new technologies such as Terahertz communication, radio interfaces, tactile internet, artificial intelligence for connected intelligence, new encoding methods and waveform chipsets for 6G devices. What is challenging is the national spectrum allocation strategies which must account for aviation needs and protection of spectrum for safety of life flight operations.