This year, 5G connections are expected to reach the cornerstone of 1 billion connections worldwide since the commercialization of the fifth generation mobile network began in 2019. Researchers are now turning their attention to the sixth generation of mobile networks, also known as 6G.
Interest in shaping the shape and function of the network is predictably strong among the world’s leading telecommunications companies. Research projects have already been announced by Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia, with the latter announcing its intention to make 6G networks commercially available by 2030.
Nation states are also involved in the action. Germany has allocated up to 700 million euros for 6G research by 2025, while the United States and Japan have jointly invested about $ 4.5 billion in research and development, testing and deployment of secure networks for the next generation of communications.
This is despite the fact that the gap in mobile connectivity continues to exist around the world. According to the GSMA Mobile Economy for 2022 report47% of the world’s population does not use mobile broadband. With almost half of the world’s population still not using mobile broadband, are we ready for 6G networks?
What is 6G internet?
As the next generation of mobile networks, 6G is set to be faster and have more coverage than 5G.
According to a white paper published in May 2022 by Samsung Research, 6G will require “ultra-broadband continuous bandwidth” mobile communication spectra. This means that it will use very low amounts of energy to communicate with short distances and high bandwidth.
“We started our journey a long time ago to understand, develop and standardize 6G communication technology,” said Sunghyun Choi, executive vice president and head of the Samsung Research Center for Advanced Communication Research.
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The technology giant says the 6G will use a range of low, medium and high bands, potentially “reconfiguring existing bands used for the 3G, 4G and 5G network”.
Not everything for 6G has already been developed, says Dean Bubley of Disruptive Analysis. In fact, the analyst says, the first projects for the network are still being worked on. Although 6G will have to be similar in today’s broad sense, even if only to maintain backward compatibility, it “can use more satellite connections to remote areas, plus more smaller cells,” he explains. “There will also be various specialized options, such as portable cells in vehicles or drones, although these will not be common. Later versions of 6G (perhaps in the mid-2030s) may begin to use “smart surfaces” as repeaters and extenders.
How fast will 6G be?
Samsung has confirmed its position that 6G can use the bandwidth below THz, allowing data rates of up to 1 terabit per second (Tbps). That’s 50 times faster than 20 Gbps for 5G networks today.
Not everyone is so sure. Bubble claims that the speeds of 6G are “still under discussion” and that the mobile industry can take on a new way of thinking.
“The old world mobile industry is pushing for high gigabits per second and other extreme performance requirements,” he said, adding that other mobile players don’t feel that way. He explains that other members of the mobile industry believe that their focus should be on “capacity density”, which uses more spectrum in a more densely populated mobile population.
This would be more for busy areas that would have many users (such as cities).
What will 6G mobile networks be used for?
Companies such as Nokia Labs, Ericsson and Huawei believe that 6G mobile networks will completely redefine our interactions with online services. Over time, the next generation of mobile networking technologies will “serve as a distributed neural network that provides communication links to merge the physical, cyber and biological worlds, truly ushering in an era where everything will be felt, connected and intelligent,” he said. Huawei. Gradually, 6G will form the basis of many aspects of everyday life, which the company says will be “complemented by ultra-high-end speech and ultra-reliable wireless connections, natural AI and advanced sensor technology.”
This vision extends to the integration of sensor technology with communication into a single system, using radio waves to “see” the physical world and to construct digital twins in the cyber world. Specific uses may include ‘locating for purposes based on devices or even without devices’, imaging, reconstruction and environmental monitoring, gesture and activity recognition.
Nokia Labs shares this view, explaining that while we have already seen applications of digital twin technology using 5G, 6G will take it to new places. It says it will probably work on a “much larger scale” and be found in extensive networks of cities and even digital twins.
What does this mean for consumers? “By 2030, there are likely to be more connected vehicles (and perhaps autonomous vehicles) as well as different types of ‘metauniverse’ experience, although they will be used mostly indoors,” explains Bubley.
Is the world ready for 6G networks?
Mobile network operators around the world are investing heavily in 6G. According to GSMA Intelligenceabout 10% of operators worldwide run 6G research and development programs, while a similar number of companies have discussed next-generation network technology with suppliers.
But as operators move forward with the development of 6G network technology, the difference in the use of mobile networks as a whole remains almost half of the world’s population.
“Operators’ investments in network infrastructure over the past decade have helped reduce the gap in mobile broadband coverage from one-third of the world’s population to just 6%,” the report said. “But while the industry continues to invest in innovative solutions and partnerships to expand connectivity to still underserved and remote communities, the adoption of mobile Internet services is not keeping pace with expanding network coverage.
“This has led to a significant difference in use; in 2021, the difference in use is 3.2 billion people, or 41% of the world’s population.
In addition, there are areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, where 4G adoption is still less than a fifth of the total. Operators are stepping up their efforts to migrate existing 2G and 3G customers to 4G networks, says GSMA Intelligence, but it is clear that these areas are not ready for 5G or even 6G networks.
However, there are grounds for optimism. By 2025, the GSMA estimates that 95% of the world’s population will use mobile broadband, with 2 billion subscribers using 5G services. This means that more areas may be ready to migrate to a 6G network.
Telecommunications company NTT has announced a pilot 6G network in 2025, with the South Korean government planning to launch its own 6G network in 2026. The EU has also launched its large-scale 6G research and innovation program, while other nations such as the US and Japan have expressed invested in their own 6G research initiatives.
The commitment is from the private sector and governments. But it is not yet clear whether demand will match supply.
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