Orange Labs VP of ambient connectivity research Eric Hardouin (pictured) offered insight into services a 6G technology might enable, revealing advanced holograms and massive-scale digital twin technology were among early ideas being researched.

During Orange’s 2021 Research Exhibition, Hardouin said a sharp acceleration in work to define the technology over the past 18 months should begin to bear fruit in the next two years, as the industry moves towards initial deployments in 2029 or 2030.

Current research should provide the industry “a good idea of the major technical directions” for 6G, he said adding Orange Labs’ focus on holographic and twinning services are “representative of what we could see in the future”.

Holographic technology offers clear potential for immersive telepresence services, but Hardouin noted it could advance beyond this to enable “holoportation, where the idea is to be able to convey the five senses. So not just sight and sound, but also touch and even smell”.

Large-scale digital twin technology, meanwhile, could optimise the operation of cities to benefit urbanites.

Both scenarios would entail the transmission and processing of massive amounts of data, requiring network capabilities beyond those enabled by 5G, he said.

To achieve this, researchers are exploring network optimisation improvements using AI, and how specialised “reconfigurable intelligent surfaces” panels could create passive massive MIMO-like radio systems.

He explained Orange believes development of 6G should differ from 5G by relying on more input from the public, and considering environmental and digital inclusion factors among others.