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Nokia expert seeks to shape 6G’s future through leading role in global standards body

All for one handshake

The future belongs to 6G. This next generation of connectivity is expected to merge the physical, human and digital worlds, effectively linking our planet in a secure, inclusive and sustainable way.

But the road to that defining era runs through the highly technical standardization process. It’s where the groundwork is laid, it’s where the promise of 6G is translated into an actual tangible system. It turns years of long-term research conducted in all major regions into potential reality.

That’s where Marco Maso wants to leave his mark and that’s why he is running for an elected position in 3GPP, the world’s leading standardization organization for mobile networks.

In his extensive Telecoms career as a researcher and standardization specialist, Maso has honed his technical expertise on signal processing, transceiver and physical layer algorithm design. He’s straddled industry and academia and worked for various companies, in various countries and in various languages, allowing him to bridge the wide range of cultures and backgrounds that make up the core of the Telecoms world. And he’s already dabbled in moderating key 3GPP discussions.

Marco Maso profile

All this, plus his passion to shape the future of communications as a “diplomat of technology,” are what he thinks make him the perfect candidate for vice chair of the RAN1 working group.

“I believe that I am the one who has the mix of skills and competences that one would want to see in a 3GPP RAN1 vice chair,” he exclaimed. “You want the person to be fair, you want the person to be trustworthy and inclusive and you want the person to be technically savvy and able to grasp the essence of the problem and be able to unlock the mystery. In these times of change, you want the person to offer a forward-looking perspective and a fresh look on old and new problems.”

Running for RAN1

3GPP work is carried out in three Technical Specification Groups (TSG): Radio Access Network (RAN), Core Network and Terminals (CT) and Service and System Aspects (SA).

RAN1 is the first of the five working groups within RAN TSG and is devoted to the physical layer aspects of the cellular network technology. Essentially, this is the very last bit before the signal is propagated in the wireless medium through an antenna.

“RAN1 is where the magic happens,” said Maso.

And 2025 marks the beginning of the 6G study item, which will be the official first step toward elaborating the technical content of the first 6G release, which is expected to be finalized by 2029.

“The next generation of RAN1 leaders will be the generation that will have the responsibility to serve the working group throughout the study item phase and throughout the entire first 6G release,” he explained. “It’s a turning point for 3GPP that happens about once a decade. So historically speaking, it's a moment in which if you have the ambition or the will to act in this capacity, this is where you want to be and when you want to be. And when one delivers excellent leadership then further possibilities unfold.”

For Maso, the 2025 election for vice chair could indeed be the start of those wider possibilities and he hopes to accompany the journey throughout the 6G era.

“That's where you can have an impact and that's where you can make great things happen based on your principles and visions,” he said.

A vision for standards

The vision of Maso - and Nokia - is one that is shaped around principles of openness, fairness, technical soundness, market relevance and inclusion of all markets and players. That doesn’t necessarily mean more standards, but rather better standards.

In fact, he has crystallized this vision in a clear motto: “Technology drives good standards. Market demands shape great standards.”

This can be achieved by pursuing an inclusive balance between the needs of the established players in the 3GPP ecosystem and those of the new players from smaller and emerging markets.

Another key enabler is a decision-making process based on solid technical analysis and targeting a “one problem, one solution” approach where the number of supported solutions to the same problem is minimized.

“Market fragmentation is to be avoided at all costs, to unleash the full potential of the technology and allow its swift and pervasive adoption,” Maso added.

Open, fearless and empowered in his Nokia work, Maso looks to take that mindset to a potential 3GPP leadership role as well.

An eclectic background

Since the 3GPP working groups seek consensus among its members, the candidates’ technical platforms tend to be similar or at least flexible enough to find a desired compromise. So, where candidates differ is how well they are positioned to lead a group that requires working together.

Marco Maso serving as chair of a Rel-18 coverage enhancement offline session in 2022

3GPP meeting

“You can't disrespect the other. You can’t diminish each other because that's not really serving anyone’s purpose,” he explained. “The differentiating factor is the personal level.”

In that, Maso feels his eclectic background puts him in a unique position for the wide range of constituents and companies with whom he’ll be working.

He was born and raised in Italy, where he earned his various engineering degrees in his native Padova. Later he moved to France, where he added a Ph.D. in telecommunications and currently works for Nokia and lives with his wife and young son.

Marco Maso receiving his MSc in 2008 at the University of Padua

Master Marco Maso

In between, the 42-year-old Maso also lived, worked and studied in Vietnam, Singapore and China. Prior to his Nokia career, he worked for Huawei. This allowed him to familiarize with the Chinese ecosystem and culture, while polishing his rudimentary Mandarin. He’s been an area editor and guest editor for special issues of several prestigious IEEE journals, filed dozens of patent applications and won numerous inventor awards. He was also a national-level swimmer in Italy and played guitar and sang in a band for years, showcasing his competitiveness, creativity and leadership skills.

“So, I don’t have boundaries and my background naturally pushes me to be open to listening to everyone,” he said. “Anywhere you put me, I will fit in.”

He says the pinnacle of his career will be reaching the “frontline” of where telecom future is shaped, so he can contribute to it to the best of his ability and for the longest time.

“6G can’t fail. 6G must be a success, so this is the time to strike,” he said. “I know that I will have a big responsibility.”

Aron Heller

About Aron Heller

Aron Heller is the lead writer for Bell Labs, Nokia’s renowned industrial research arm, where he tells the story of technology and the people behind it. He previously filled a similar role for the company’s Cloud and Network Services business group. During his lengthy journalism career, Aron was the long-time Jerusalem correspondent for The Associated Press and an adjunct journalism professor and sports broadcaster. He’s covered ten Israeli elections, four Mideast wars, dozens of other major world events and has been dispatched to assignments across five continents. A certified baseball coach and umpire, Aron has also been known to cite obscure quotes from cult comedy films.

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