Building the Foundations and Experiences of 6G and Beyond Networks: A Confluence of THz Systems, Extended Reality (XR), and AI-Native Semantic Communications

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Virginia Tech


The emergence of 6G and beyond networks is set to enable a range of novel services such as personalized highly immersive experiences, holographic teleportation, and human-like intelligent robotic applications. Such applications require a set of stringent sensing, communication, control, and intelligence requirements that mandate a leap in the design, analysis, and optimization of today's wireless networks. First, from a wireless communication standpoint, future 6G applications necessitate extreme requirements in terms of bidirectional data rates, near-zero latency, synchronization, and jitter. Concurrently, such services also need a sensing functionality to track, localize, and sense their environment. Owing to its abundant bandwidth, one may naturally resort to terahertz (THz) frequency bands (0.1 − 10 THz) so as to provide significant wireless capacity gains and enable high-resolution environment sensing. Nonetheless, operating a wireless system at the THz band is constrained by a very uncertain channel which brings forth novel challenges. In essence, these channel limitations lead to unreliable intermittent links ergo the short communication range and the high susceptibility to blockage and molecular absorption. Second, given that emerging wireless services are "intelligence-centric", today's communication links must be transformed from a mere bit-pipe into a brain-like reasoning system. Towards this end, one can exploit the concept of semantic communications, a revolutionary paradigm that promises to transform radio nodes into intelligent agents that can extract the underlying meaning (semantics) or significance in a data stream. However, to date, there has been a lack in holistic, fundamental, and scalable frameworks for building next-generation semantic communication networks based on rigorous and well-defined technical foundations. Henceforth, to panoramically develop the fully-fledged theoretical foundations of future 6G applications and guarantee affluent corresponding experiences, this dissertation thoroughly investigates two thrusts. The first thrust focuses on developing the analytical foundations of THz systems with a focus on network design, performance analysis, and system optimization. First, a novel and holistic vision that articulates the unique role of THz in 6G systems is proposed. This vision exposes the solutions and milestones necessary to unleash THz's true potential in next-generation wireless systems. Then, given that extended reality (XR) will be a staple application of 6G systems, a novel risk and tail-based performance analysis is proposed to evaluate the instantaneous performance of THz bands for specific ultimate virtual reality (VR) services. Here, the results showcase that abundant bandwidth and the molecular absorption effect have only a secondary effect on the reliability compared to the availability of line-of-sight. More importantly, the results highlight that average metrics overlook extreme events and tend to provide false positive performance guarantees. To address the identified challenges of THz systems, a risk-oriented learning-based design that exploits reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RISs) is proposed so as to optimize the instantaneous reliability. Furthermore, the analytical results are extended to investigate the uplink freshness of augmented reality (AR) services. Here, a novel ruin-based performance is conducted that scrutinizes the peak age of information (PAoI) during extreme events. Next, a novel joint sensing, communication, and artificial intelligence (AI) framework is developed to turn every THz communication link failure into a sensing opportunity, with application to digital world experiences with XR. This framework enables the use of the same waveform, spectrum, and hardware for both sensing and communication functionalities. Furthermore, this sensing input is intelligently processed via a novel joint imputation and forecasting system that is designed via non-autoregressive and transformed-based generative AI tools. This joint system enables fine-graining the sensing input to smaller time slots, predicting missing values, and fore- casting sensing and environmental information about future XR user behavior. Then, a novel joint quality of personal experience (QoPE)-centric and sensing-driven optimization is formulated and solved via deep hysteretic multi-agent reinforcement learning tools. Essentially, this dissertation establishes a solid foundation for the future deployment of THz frequencies in next-generation wireless networks through the proposal of a comprehensive set of principles that draw on the theories of tail and risk, joint sensing and communication designs, and novel AI frameworks. By adopting a multi-faceted approach, this work contributes significantly to the understanding and practical implementation of THz technology, paving the way for its integration into a wide range of applications that demand high reliability, resilience, and an immersive user experience. In the second thrust of this dissertation, the very first theoretical foundations of semantic communication and AI-native wireless networks are developed. In particular, a rigorous and holistic vision of an end-to-end semantic communication network that is founded on novel concepts from AI, causal reasoning, transfer learning, and minimum description length theory is proposed. Within this framework, the dissertation demonstrates that moving from data-driven intelligence towards reasoning-driven intelligence requires identifying association (statistical) and causal logic. Additionally, to evaluate the performance of semantic communication networks, novel key performance indicators metrics that include new "reasoning capacity" measures that could go beyond Shannon's bound to capture the imminent convergence of computing and communication resources. Then, a novel contrastive learning framework is proposed so as to disentangle learnable and memoizable patterns in source data and make the data "semantic-ready". Through the development of a rigorous end-to-end semantic communication network founded on novel concepts from communication theory and AI, along with the proposal of novel performance metrics, this dissertation lays a solid foundation for the advancement of reasoning-driven intelligence in the field of wireless communication and paves the way for a wide range of future applications. Ultimately, the various analytical foundations presented in this dissertation will provide key guidelines that guarantee seamless experiences in future 6G applications, enable a successful deployment of THz wireless systems as a versatile band for integrated communication and sensing, and build future AI-native semantic communication networks.



terahertz (THz), extended reality (XR), 6G, joint sensing and communication, semantic communication, artificial intelligence (AI)