InterDigital’s Doug Castor Reflects on Editorship of the Next G Alliance “Roadmap to 6G” report
InterDigital has been an integral contributor to every generation of wireless, and our leadership momentum continues as we help shape the development of 6G worldwide.
Our Head of Future Wireless North America, Doug Castor, recently served as the editor for ATIS Next G Alliance’s recently published “Roadmap to 6G” report, which outlines the first 6G vision for North America and details major steps to secure North American technology leadership for the next decade and beyond.
You may read the ATIS "Roadmap to 6G” report here and learn more about how Doug’s leadership and expertise helped shape this critical document below.
IDCC Comms: Doug, congratulations on being selected Editor of the Next G Alliance “Roadmap to 6G” report! This is a significant responsibility considering this report’s importance and its sheer number of contributors. How were you selected for this role?
Doug Castor: InterDigital is one of the founding members of Next G Alliance, and I was tapped early on within our company to be a participant in its development. I like to think I was selected because of my passion to see increased North American leadership when it comes to innovation and development for 6G.
When the Next G Alliance working groups were forming, I ran and was elected vice-chair of the National 6G Working Group. The leadership team divvied up some critical roles to drive our objectives in 2021, and I immediately volunteered to be editor of the report.
IDCC Comms: How long did it take to develop and produce the “Roadmap to 6G" report?
Doug Castor: The development of the NGA’s “Roadmap to 6G” report was a six-month-long effort, and the outline was formed by taking inventory of the responsibilities for the 6G Roadmap working group established in the NGA operating structure in early 2021.
Moving toward 6G, there is a feeling and a national imperative to build a vision and act on development of a roadmap. This feeling is reflected among NGA’s many members and is also recognized in government by certain legislative proposals. NGA members overwhelmingly agreed that identifying the 6G vision was a necessary first step in a process that identified key goals, a research roadmap, and North American priorities for leadership.
IDCC Comms: The Next G Alliance has more than 600 participants from across industry and academia. Fielding feedback from that array of participants sounds daunting, though important, to produce a representative roadmap. How did you navigate the process?
Doug Castor: 600 participants is in fact a large number, though they represent 82 member organizations – a large but more manageable number. Input was usually provided through one spokesperson per member, and two key factors made this possible, in my opinion.
First, the whole group displayed utmost professionalism to work together toward a common goal, while being able to both argue and compromise and second, ATIS did a great job facilitating discussion and processes, as well as setting up collaboration tools for us.
The 6G Roadmap working group is also responsible for synthesizing input from other working groups, so the report includes text submitted and reviewed by other NGA workings groups. Overall, there was so much interest in participation that we decided to have sub-editors for each section!
IDCC Comms: How did your InterDigital experiences prepare you for this responsibility?
Doug Castor: Over the last ten years, my responsibilities at InterDigital have been to identify and develop technologies that are three to-five years away from standardization – a critical time when industry comes together to pick the best technology approaches. I was engaged in the founding of InterDigital’s European offices at the start of 5G to get us more involved in global leadership efforts and I’ve been involved with North American research efforts such as PAWR and various university advisory boards, where there are many familiar faces from the Next G Alliance.
IDCC Comms: Was the development of the NGA 6G Roadmap report any different from how previous roadmaps have been developed?
Doug Castor: For North America, developing a 6G technology roadmap is an entirely new approach, at least at this scale. In 5G, there may have been smaller initiatives dedicated to topics like spectrum sharing, for example, but this may be the first time a group this large and this broad organized around a common goal of building 6G leadership.
IDCC Comms: What challenges did you encounter, and how did your expertise help you find a solution?
Doug Castor: It’s always hard to get a large group moving in the same direction, so I find leading by “doing” is good approach. I’ve learned from my InterDigital experience that putting in hard work and making a few steps forward for a group is a good leadership approach. When you are surrounded by smart people; they will tell you when you’re going astray.
Another key challenge was too much information – both a nice-to-have and a problem for a very diverse array of participants and varying timelines for contributions.
IDCC Comms: The 6G Roadmap report addresses a variety of issues for 6G development. What topics had the greatest consensus, and which produced the most debate?
Doug Castor: There was significant consensus around the technology items because I think industry is starting to converge on what the key 6G technology topics will be, while there remains healthy discussion around spectrum’s role in 6G. At this stage, we know many of the key technology topics, but there is still much innovation to be done before we have solutions.
The Next G Alliance umbrella is broader than just research and technology, though, and looks at the 6G Roadmap holistically. This includes understanding 6G’s societal requirements, environmental concerns and influences, and economic drivers, raising important considerations around topics like digital equity and rural connectivity.
IDCC Comms: What is next for the 6G Roadmap report and your leadership responsibilities?
Doug Castor: With the publication of the 6G Roadmap report, we have great momentum for our next steps. NGA recently announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Korea to bolster our international partnerships and I personally will be participating on a webinar with the EMPOWER research consortium on transatlantic perspectives toward 6G pathways on March 2.
I encourage you to join and tune into the Next G Alliance 6G Roadmap report event on February 17th. You can learn more and attend here.