Is NVIDIA Showing Us the Future of 6G?

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By Larbi Belkhit | 2Q 2024 | IN-7303

NVIDIA unveiled its 6G Research Cloud platform, which aims to advance Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Radio Access Network (RAN) technology using NVIDIA Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). This ABI Insight discusses the benefits that such a platform offers the industry ahead of the 6G rollout, and how operators and vendors can make use of it to best prepare themselves.

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NVIDIA Announces Its 6G Research Cloud Platform at GTC 2024


During its GTC event in March 2024, NVIDIA unveiled its new 6G Research Cloud platform, aiming to advance Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Radio Access Network (RAN) technology. This platform aims to provide a comprehensive suite allowing researchers to advance AI for RAN technology, and specifically to accelerate the development of 6G technologies. NVIDIA already has vendors such as Fujitsu, Nokia, and Samsung as early adopters and part of its ecosystem. This platform consists of three main parts—its Aerial Omniverse Digital Twin for 6G, Aerial CUDA-Accelerated RAN, and Sionna Neural Radio Framework. The Aerial Omniverse Digital Twin is a reference application enabling accurate simulations of 6G systems, incorporating software-defined RAN and realistic terrain and object properties, allowing researchers to simulate and build algorithms based on site-specific data. The Aerial CUDA-Accelerated RAN is a full-RAN software-defined stack allowing for real-time 6G network testing, programming, and customization. Lastly, the Sionna Neural Radio Framework integrates popular frameworks such as Python’s TensorFlow using NVIDIA Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to generate data and train AI/Machine Learning (ML) models at scale.

NVIDIA’s long-term vision and strategy is to remodel cell sites to become multi-purpose using its processors and accelerators, and to enable services developed through its toolkits and Software Development Kits (SDKs). In this plan, a cell site will run multiple applications, only one of which will be RAN and most will be AI applications.

Can This Platform Help the Industry Avoid Making the Same Mistakes?


NVIDIA’s announcement is a good development for the industry, specifically in helping GPU technology break into the radio market for 6G, as vendors and operators gain confidence in using the solution. By providing this research platform, NVIDIA is attempting to position itself as a leader in the 6G market, having seen only limited success in the integration of its GPU technology during the 5G era, to date; for example, with the NTT DOCOMO Open RAN network in October 2023.

Furthermore, the platform offers a strong opportunity for collaboration to occur and ensures that research into potential 6G technologies is not conducted independently on proprietary platforms, but rather in an open environment. This enables the industry to streamline the innovation roadmap for 6G and greater interoperability simulation to occur ahead of time.

The industry is aware of the issues it experienced with the rollout of 5G, such as technological complexity and infrastructure costs, so NVIDIA’s platform will help the industry avoid making the same mistakes for the 6G rollout:

  • Better Network Planning: The use of digital twins to simulate 6G environments can lead to less reliance on field testing and help vendors and operators understand the impact of their new technologies on network performance before real deployment—commercial or trial form.
  • AI/ML Model Scaling: The use of the neural radio framework enabling the scaling of AI/ML models using NVIDIA GPUs, leading to accelerated advancements in network technology and faster implementation of new features with reduced lead times in comparison to 5G.
  • Standardization Clarity: The early and comprehensive testing of 6G network technologies can provide clearer information for regulatory bodies such as The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to establish standards sooner, avoiding the regulatory delays that affected the 5G rollout.

Is Merging Industries the Way Foward?


NVIDIA’s announcement presents a unique opportunity for operators to get out of the hole they have found themselves in during the 5G era. Embracing NVIDIA’s platform and long-term vision could enable the entire industry to revolutionize this distributed computing environment for the 6G era. As this platform continues to develop, operators must take a proactive approach in offering valuable insights into their specific use cases and potential pain points, ensuring diverse use cases are assessed as part of the ongoing research for the 6G era before rollout. Vendors will have to accelerate the development of GPU-based solutions into their product portfolio to ensure that they are strategically ready to capitalize on the opportunity that NVIDIA offers.

The long-term vision of transforming the network into a distributed computing environment, opening the door to the merging of the data center and network industries, is particularly aggressive and faces a lot of issues. It could be a likely scenario due to the financial hardships that telecoms infrastructure vendors are facing today. NVIDIA is painting a new picture for the future of networks, and even retooling them to run multiple enterprise application, something that operators have long coveted. However, this strategy will require both heavy investment and carries significant risk. So, will NVIDIA take the risk and make the investment? That is unlikely to occur, unless there is a certain level of commitment from operators, which will face significant interoperability and regulatory issues. Furthermore, industry leaders from both sides—operators and vendors—will have to change their business model to accommodate NVIDIA’s vision and risk losing market share to new competitors. NVIDIA has been creative in its approach to breaking into the telecoms industry, but it is a far more realistic proposition that NVIDIA will need to adapt its bold vision for the 6G era, versus the industry adapting to it.


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