Insights 6 shared principles agreed for 6G: Secure, Open and Resilient by Design

With the rollout of 5G still in progress, and the commercial rollout of 6G not slated until 2030, is it too early to start thinking about 6G? With use cases identified including smart cities, IoT connectivity and autonomous vehicles through to drone usage and the operation of smart factories, to name just a few, the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the United States don’t think so, having recently issued a joint statement endorsing the following shared principles for the research and development of 6G:

Secure and resilient technology as part of a wider secure trusted communications ecosystem, facilitating the ability of participating governments and partners to protect national security will be essential in the development and support of 6G technologies.

Those tasked with developing 6G technologies (and architectures) should adopt systematic cybersecurity approaches, incorporating technical standards, interfaces, and specifications. Strategies such as security-by-design must be employed to ensure the availability of critical services, with systems engineered to fail safely and recover swiftly.

Furthermore, these technologies must prioritize reliability, resilience, safety, and the protection of individual privacy. Ensuring a high level of security on communication networks entails mitigating potential risks stemming from increased network complexity and expanded attack surfaces.

6G technologies should be founded upon:

  • Global standards, interfaces, and specifications that are developed through open, transparent, impartial and consensus-based decision-making processes.
  • Global standards that respect intellectual property rights while promoting sustainability, accessibility, inclusive participation, interoperability, competitiveness, openness, and security.

6G technologies should:

  • Use standards in line with principles laid down under the Global Industry-led and Inclusive Standard Setting & International Collaborations principle and interfaces to enable seamless interoperability between products from different suppliers, including software and hardware;
  • Recognize the importance of international cooperation in promoting open, secure, resilient, inclusive, interoperable networks, such as Open Radio Access Networks, and safe, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable 6G ecosystem; and
  • Benefit from joint research, development and testing, and which leverage innovative technologies such as virtualization, software-defined networking, artificial intelligence.
  • 6G technologies should allow for energy-efficient deployments and operation, improving both environmental sustainability, reparability and recyclability of equipment, and the affordability necessary to support social sustainability.
  • 6G technologies should be developed to be accessible through mechanisms such as economies of scale, enabled by standardization and competitive environment, and able to bridge digital divides, delivering reliable coverage and consistent quality of experience, minimizing disparity in service levels wherever possible while allowing for innovative use cases.
  • 6G technologies should contribute towards empowering other industries and sectors to reduce their environmental impacts by promoting digital transformation.
  • 6G technologies should be widely available and accessible to developing nations.
  • 6G technologies should leverage non-terrestrial networks (“NTN”) such as satellite and High-Altitude Platform Station (“HAPS”) to expand the reach and capabilities of 6G.

6G technologies should:

  • have secure and resilient supply chains;
  • promote a globally competitive market along the ICT value chain and in all elements of the compute and connectivity continuum, with multiple software and hardware suppliers;
  • make use of new spectrum allocations or spectrum that has already been allocated for wireless services; and
  • use spectrum efficiently and incorporate spectrum sharing mechanisms by design to coexist with incumbent service providers.

Their call for global, industry-led standard-setting and international collaborations reflects a recognition that the challenges of 6G development should not be tackled in isolation. By agreeing these shared principles now, the Governments of United States, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom acknowledge that by working together, they can support open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, resilient, and secure connectivity.

Within the industry however, the statement has fuelled concern about a split 6G ecosystem with the absence of key international players – such as China – from this agreement, with some even claiming that “A battle is underway to influence the standards of 6G amid concerns by Western countries and their allies that authoritarian regimes could gain further control over the internet in their countries.[1]

If that is true, then this alliance, grounded in security, openness, resilience, and inclusivity principles, marks a significant move against the backdrop of rising tech rivalry with China.