Wireless networking has grown at a breakneck pace over the last ten years. However, technology is rapidly advancing, and the next generation, 6G, is already being planned. To mention a few, 6G will enable holographic telepresence, telehealth, remote education, ubiquitous robotics and autonomous cars, smart cities and communities (IoT), and advanced manufacturing (Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution).
By becoming embedded in applications at all levels of the network, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will begin to play a larger role in the development and monitoring of wireless networking infrastructure. The societal advantages that will arise will be tremendous.
At the same time as these exciting new wireless capabilities lie on the horizon, a slew of research obstacles lurks ahead. These are the result of the ever-increasing complexity of hardware and software systems, as well as the requirement to offer infrastructure that is both reliable and secure while also safeguarding users' privacy.
Research Challenge - Security, Privacy and Reliability for 6G
The primary visions for 6G share several key ideas: (a) use of virtualisation across all layers of communication systems; (b) widespread deployment of AI techniques (e.g., to integrate semantics); (c) tight integration of communication, computation, caching, and control (C4); and (d) deep programmability with a focus on high-level intents and verifiability as a way of dealing with ever-increasing complexity.
Due to the tight interconnections among its various components, increased demands for reliability due to its inclusion in important applications, and widespread deployment of AI, which has its own security and privacy challenges, deploying 6G will be extremely difficult. Incorporating security at the physical layer, including the use of quantum key distribution (QKD) schemes for future optical wireless communication, and authentication by a physical layer signature (such as RF fingerprinting), are two of the first research directions in terms of security, privacy, and reliability. In a larger sense, 6G security can be viewed as the security of a complex system of systems.
6G networking with built-in security, privacy, and reliability will necessitate not only the adoption of existing security practices but also the development of new ones, such as the ability to detect anomalies and vulnerabilities and then contain attacks and failures to avoid catastrophic disruptions. While AI will play a key part in tackling these issues, specialised hardware, component redundancy, and diversity will also be necessary for a successful and safe implementation.
Next-generation wireless Networking ecosystems, such as 5G and the upcoming 6G and beyond, are complex and involve many stakeholders with varying interests and perspectives. From the lowest hardware layer to the top of the software stack, the problems are numerous. These networks have enormous potential for society, but if we are to reap the benefits, we must invest heavily in research on security, privacy, dependability, rapid deployment, and programmability. This will necessitate collaboration with industry across several sectors, including network providers, equipment makers, software and service providers, as well as regulatory and standardisation bodies.