Luciano Mendes: “6G may be used to integrate the physical, virtual, and biological worlds”


Research Coordinator and Full Professor at INATEL, Luciano Mendes represents the institution at One6G and is a member of IEEE.

Brazil – Luciano Leonel Mendes has a Ph.D. and a postdoctoral degree from the University of Dresden, Germany. He is a professor, researcher, and coordinator of Research Activities at the Radiocommunications Reference Center (CRR) of the National Institute of Telecommunications (INATEL), in Brazil, where he is responsible for research on 5G and 6G. In addition, Mendes represents INATEL in the One6G Association and is part of the Smart Cities standardization working group at IEEE.

With solid experience in mobile communications technologies and deep knowledge of the industry, Luciano talked with topin about the evolution of studies on 6G, how the ecosystem is today, and the promises of connectivity for the relatively near future.

topin: What is 6G? And how will it differ from 5G?

Luciano: IMT-2020 [International Mobile Telecommunications Standard-2020] was highly audacious in presenting the scenarios and use cases for the fifth generation of mobile networks. Many demanded extreme requirements, such as high throughput and low latency simultaneously.

Although the standardization of the 5G network has been innovative, making it the most flexible mobile network of all time, the physical layer present in 5G-NR [New Radio] is still not capable of meeting all the requirements demanded by the applications provided for in IMT-2020. This alone would be a strong enough driver to start developing a future mobile network; however, several new scenarios and even more challenging use cases are being proposed, requiring higher throughput and coverage, lower latency, and more connectivity.

But improvements in the field of communications on their own will not make these applications feasible. In addition to providing communication, the 6G network must support new features, such as imaging, high-precision mapping and positioning, and electromagnetic, physical and chemical environmental sensing. Due to this, the 6G network may be used to integrate the physical, virtual, and biological worlds, allowing applications far beyond simple data communication.

Such a network will need multiple forms of access, integrating the various terrestrial solutions – Wi-Fi, optical networks, Bluetooth, among others – with satellite networks completely transparently. Artificial Intelligence will play a role in enabling the management, organization, and optimization of all elements of this network.

topin: What are the main players involved in the development of 6G today?

Luciano: Several initiatives around the globe are proposing use cases, requirements, and enabling technologies for 6G networks. The main ones, in my opinion, are the following:

 6G Flagship: it is the first major project in 6G Networks, funded by the Finnish government and implemented at the University of Oulu. It presented the first perspectives and demands related to 6G networks.

Hexa-X: a European Union project with a greater impact on the definition of requirements, use cases, and enablers for 6G networks. It can be considered the seminal project in the development of 6G networks.

One6G: it is an international association that involves operators, industry, and academia. It aims to contribute to the standardization process of 6G networks by ITU [International Telecommunication Union].

6G@UT: an American research center constituted by several large companies that seeks to present technical solutions to the challenges foreseen for 6G networks.

Brasil 6G: a Brazilian research project supported by the Federal Government that brings together research institutions from different regions of the country. It aims to create an ecosystem that enables the development of 6G networks in Brazil.

topin: Have there ever been any trials with 6G?

Luciano: The 6G network is still an incipient concept, and there is no clear definition of all its features and capabilities. Therefore, there were no trials with the 6G network itself; we can already see tests of some technologies pointed out as fundamental to support a given aspect or feature of the future network. The main enabling technologies demonstrated today are communications in the sub-THz and THz ranges, the use of Artificial Intelligence in advanced telecommunications systems, and intelligent surfaces, among others.

topin: What barriers will the deployment of 6G break down?

Luciano: The main paradigm that will be shifted is that the mobile network is employed only to transmit data. Today we see it as an extension of the connectivity we have at home, that is, a way to stay connected when we are away from a Wi-Fi router. However, 6G will be much more than a way of transmitting and receiving data; it will permeate all types of interactions we will have with the internet, encompassing the other networks as ways to access the applications.

In addition, the integration of imaging, mapping, positioning, and sensing features will allow the development of solutions for various verticals, such as security, agribusiness, logistics, industry, autonomous vehicles, and health, among many others.

One of the scenarios that stand out is global connectivity: it will be possible to access the internet with quality anywhere on the planet, thanks to the capability of the 6G network to employ satellites to improve its coverage and use long-range terrestrial networks to enable applications such as global monitoring of environmental ecosystems, connectivity on airplanes, trains and ships, traceability and logistical monitoring and border surveillance systems.

Another interesting scenario is that of invisible secure zones, where sensors installed in the environment, high-resolution cameras, and Artificial Intelligence are employed to identify threats and ensure permission to access controlled environments. It would be possible to perform passenger security checks, for example, without the need for specific checkpoints since the network would be capable of identifying threats using various sensors and intelligent analysis of data and images.

The 6G network will also enable the digital twins’ scenario; a synchronous replica of an actual large-scale system, such as a city or factory, could be created in a virtual environment. Thus, changes to the real physical system would be fed in real time into the virtual model, and vice versa, allowing new processes or policies to be tested in the replica before being applied in the real world. These are just some of the possibilities that could become a reality with future 6G networks.

topin: What role does Brazil currently play in 5G and 6G research?

Luciano: Brazil is acting quite intensively to ensure that national demands are met in future mobile networks. Among the various scenarios analyzed, the development of a coverage solution in remote and rural areas that can support the social, educational, professional, and entertainment demands of those who live far from large urban centers has been gaining prominence.

The same system is being designed to enable Agriculture 4.0, in which the use of information and technology will increase productivity on farms and the country’s participation in the supply of products of animal and plant origin without causing more impact on the environment.

topin: What is the estimated time for the deployment of 6G? What does it take to achieve this goal?

Luciano: Research on 6G networks is in its early stages; this technology is expected to hit the market only in the 2030s. Many technologies are to be designed, and new solutions are to be created in different sectors, varying from digital communication techniques and new materials for electronic components to new ways to interact with the network through haptic communication and human-machine integration. Investments in research and technological development are essential for defining and standardizing sixth-generation mobile networks.


It is a center for teaching, research, and technology development, created in 1965. It was the first higher education institution of Telecommunications Engineering in Brazil. Since its foundation, INATEL has provided valuable contributions to the training and qualification of professionals to develop telecommunications, information technology, and all areas of technology.

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