Special Issue on Next Generation Multiple Access—Part I
As the long-term evolution (LTE) system is reaching maturity and the fifth-generation (5G) systems are being commercially deployed, researchers have turned their attention to the development of next-generation wireless networks. Compared to current wireless networks, on the one hand, next-generation wireless networks are expected to achieve significantly higher capacity, extremely low latency, ultra-high reliability, as well as massive and ubiquitous connectivity for supporting diverse disruptive applications (e.g., virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and industry 4.0). On the other hand, the evolution toward next-generation wireless networks requires a paradigm shift from the communication-oriented design to a multi-functional design, including communication, sensing, imaging, computing, and localization. Looking back at the history of wireless communication systems, multiple access (MA) techniques have been key enablers. From the first generation (1G) to the fifth generation (5G), orthogonal multiple access (OMA) schemes are mainly employed, where multiple users are allotted in orthogonal frequency/time/code resources, and the uplink transmission of the code code-division multiple-access (CDMA) uses non-orthogonal code resources. However, given the enormous challenges and diverse services of next-generation wireless networks, which significantly differ from that in current and previous wireless networks, existing MA schemes may not be applicable. As a result, a fundamental issue is the design of next-generation multiple access (NGMA) techniques. The key concept of NGMA is to enable a very large number of users/devices to be efficiently, flexibly, and intelligently connected with the network over the given wireless radio resources to not only satisfy stringent communication requirements but also realize heterogeneous functions. The investigation of NGMA is still in the infancy stage, and extensive research efforts have to be devoted to areas, including but not limited to 1) the development of new MA schemes, such as non-orthogonal multiple access (NOMA) and space division multiple access (SDMA), which are capable of achieving higher bandwidth efficiency and higher connectivity compared with conventional MA schemes; 2) the development of innovative techniques, such as reconfigurable metasurfaces, random access, advanced modulation, and channel coding, which are beneficial to the overall design of NGMA; and 3) the exploitation of advanced machine learning (ML) tools and big data techniques for providing effective solutions to address newly emerging NGMA problems.