5G was a technology that came to market faster than expected. 6G technology seems to be in no less of a hurry. No sooner has 5G technology even begun to be rolled out on a larger scale before we start to look ahead and think about what 6G is. And right now, we’re a long way along the journey to 6G, further than you or I can imagine.
Around the world, the news about 6G is emerging. 6G is a standard, that according to current practice, could be introduced in 2030. With a bit of luck or hard work, 6G could be around even earlier if we hurry up. Standardisation work starts about 2026-2027. Any 6G patents that are part of the upcoming standard could make big money for the companies behind the patents.
And the race is on
The University of Oulu has the first research centre for the future of mobile telephony, the 6G Flagship. From gigabit to terabit, that’s the vision as Finland hopes to take the lead in 6g development. The initiative involves 300 researchers, will run for eight years and has an impressive budget of the equivalent of SEK 2.5 billion.
Even Huawei says it has started up research into 6g at its R&D centre in Ottawa, Canada, and that’s probably fortunate because it doesn’t seem to be the first choice when operators choose 5g technology. But it doesn’t stop there. Even the Chinese government is sticking its neck out. According to a statement from the Ministry of Science and Technology, they have appointed 37 experts to oversee research into 6G. The Ministry has appointed 37 experts from various universities and institutes. Korea, which has been far ahead with 5G in the past, will stay far ahead this time.
These are just a few in a series of 6G ventures. Ericsson is also investing. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea’s SK Telecom for shared research around 6G network technologies, with Nokia and Samsung also part of the group.
So what is 6G? Let’s try to make a short guess.
Smartphones are probably out and will be replaced by pervasive XR experiences through, for example, glasses that project information instead of a screen. Indoors, people would most likely not use phones, but rather screens, or even holograms, to display the video stream with the person they are talking to.
Autonomous vehicles for eco-sustainable transport and smarter logistics will be enabled by technologies such as distributed artificial intelligence (AI).
That 6G will mean more data is almost self-evident and a natural direction in which we are moving. Networks will follow users seamlessly, everywhere, especially in urban areas, and intelligently and dynamically redistribute traffic. 6G research aims that we will want to transmit data at up to 1 Tbit/s per user in transmission speed. At the same time, they say that 6G is not just about moving data: 6G will be a framework for many types of services.
Expanded spectrum and the use of THz will enable new applications, such as 3D imaging and 3D sensing. These can be used, for example, in self-driving cars that can scan surrounding objects.
Wireless in mobile networks will be a large part of critical infrastructure. Self-driving cars require a completely different type of security and response than today’s networks. 6G needs built-in protection that should protect devices against attacks on the network. 6G means intelligent wireless networks that can shape the radio environment to the needs of the network at the time.
Power consumption is vital. A study by Ericsson says that 5G networks can halve CO2 emissions from the mobile industry, and then 6G is expected to halve them again. At the same time, both 5G and later 6G will contribute in many environmentally positive ways, making the net effect very interesting. The Finnish 6G vision includes meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.