6G: What and When to Expect


- everything RF

Feb 17, 2021

In today’s world, telecommunications has become an integral part of our lives. There is a constant effort to improve the infrastructure and provide better data rates, latency and reliability. We have witnessed this with the introduction of 3G and 4G over the past decade along with the latest technology in town – 5G. Although 5G deployment across the globe is still in its initial phase, some institutions have already started researching on the next best thing – the next generation of telecommunication – 6G.

Some might wonder and question why has 6G research started so early even though there is a lack of decent 5G service or 5G services altogether in many parts of the world. To those of you wondering, let’s try to answer your question.

At first glance, it may seem like 2-3 years is what it takes to implement a new generation of communication system, however that is usually just the initial phase of the process. One of the reasons for this is that an average person starts to get information about a new generation of technology when it reaches the commercialization phase i.e. after the research is completed and it’s time for spectrum auctions and mass deployment. However, what goes unnoticed is the time and effort required for R&D process and it can take anywhere from 4-6 years.

Another reason for this early onset of 6G research is – well – money. It is no secret that smartphones and telecommunications is a huge industry with billions of dollars up for grabs. As the proverb goes “The early bird gets the worm”, whoever gets to that pot of money the earliest stands a chance to get the most income out of it and mark themselves as leaders. It’s just good business to start early.

Sunghyun Choi, Head of the Advanced Communications Research Center, Samsung, stated that while 5G commercialization is still in its initial stage, it’s never too early to start preparing for 6G because it typically takes around 10 years from the start of research to commercialization of a new generation of communications technology.

Evolution of mobile devices over the decades

Now that we have cleared why 6G research has already started, let us ponder upon what should be expected from it. 6G research is just starting and there is nothing concrete, as of now, about its standards and features. However, there are visions from the researching institutions as to what they are working towards.

Samsung is turning out to be one of the leaders in 6G research and recently released a white paper with their vision for 6G called “The Next Hyper-Connected Experience for All”. It covers various aspects related to 6G like technical specifications, new features and expected time for commercialization.

Main highlights of the white paper include:

  • Application of AI in wireless communication
  • Provide immersive VR, AR and Mixed Reality (MR)
  • Replicate physical entities, including people, devices, places i.e. create digital replica
  • Use of Terahertz frequencies
  • Need for evolution in antenna and network technology
  • Split Computing

Use of AI in Network Architecture

Other institutions are have also started work on 6G which include Aalto University, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Nokia Bell Labs. The University of Oulu is another university that is working on 6G. They too have published a white paper on 6G Technology - Key Drivers and Research Challenges for 6G Ubiquitous Wireless Intelligence.

As it is expected from a new generation of technology, 6G aims to provide drastic improvement in the quality of service and performance over 5G. With 6G, these improvements look somewhat like 1000 Gbps peak data rates and latency as low as 100 μs. You won’t be alone if these numbers look crazy but billions of dollars that will be spent in the next 6-8 years on 6G R&D must count for something.

Spectrum Usage for Various Generations

Going over 6G timeline, we can expect the completion of 6G standards by 2028 and commercial deployment to start around 2030.

6G is still very much a technology of the future. Governments and telecom operators are still figuring out the deployment process of 5G, which is expected to cover most parts of the world by 2025. At this moment, we can only have a glimpse of what 6G can offer and what the future holds for the telecommunication industry.

Click here to learn more about 6G.