Only two years ago, President Donald Trump was ridiculed for wanting to push forward with the development of 6G. But the release of a recent white paper in China highlighting plans to commercialize 6G by 2030 suggests that maybe it wasn't such a crazy idea after all. The announcement revealed the emergence of three new development trends - immersive, intelligent, and universal.
According to the whitepaper, 6G could also pave the way for eight new business application scenarios, including immersive cloud XR, holographic communication, sensory interconnection, intelligent interactive communication, digital twins, and global coverage.
Although 5G has not even entered the mainstream yet, China, Japan, Finland, Europe, Korea, and the US are leading global efforts to prepare for the sixth-generation technology.
A possibility that a high-speed, low latency connectivity world is yet to be realized but planning for the decade ahead is already well underway.
Sure, the rollout of 5G looks set to continue for many years to come and understanding the potential from this current technology could take even longer. But if we accept a new mobile generation every decade, then it's not too difficult to see why some countries are already daring to look beyond 5G. Moreover, big brands are already helping to define what the next generation of 6G mobile technology will look like.
Identifying the problems of tomorrow
Big dreams and ambitions mean that many are exploring the possibility of 6G arriving in 2030 with data rates of up to 1 terabyte per second. Forget downloading a film from Netflix within a few seconds on 5G. These speeds would enable users to download over a hundred titles in seconds. But what problems are they solving in the process? It's this change of mindset and daring to plan for a better future that is most exciting.
Despite the mouth-watering prospects of breath-taking speeds, it is hoped that we begin to prioritize network reliability and resiliency over headline-grabbing speeds or tales of ubiquitous connectivity. In addition, sustainability and ethical tech are expected to play a critical role in the sixth generation of mobile networks as brands embark on a theoretical and experimental journey to explore the art of the possible.
Engineers at Samsung are already working on 6G and expect their next-generation technology to enable mixed reality applications across healthcare, manufacturing, education, and entertainment industries. Historically, we have created technology that is looking for a problem to solve. But we are now entering a era where we are starting with the problem first at R&D teams look to how they can support the digital transformation and upgrading of entire industries.
Most people in the workplace will have experienced zoom fatigue after one too many back-to-back virtual meetings. But, of course, we all want to improve this experience, and augmented reality would be the obvious next step. Making it feel like the person you are speaking with is in the room with you is a great goal to aim for but bringing that vision to life will take time.
Overcoming technical challenges
The reality is we are a decade away from the commercialization of 6G. But businesses are already beginning to plan for a brave new digital world of XR (extended reality), the building of the Metaverse, digital twins, and holographic style communication.
However, there will be many technical challenges to overcome in the years ahead. For example, there are already solutions appearing that promise to help viewers improve their understanding of a sports game by pushing real-time stats onto the pitch using augmented reality. But what happens when 99,000 Barcelona fans all want to access AR features at the same time when inside the Camp Nou?
The challenge of delivering 2 Gbps to nearly 100,000 fans in a tiny location is one of many problems we will need to overcome.
We are on a journey where we will continue to explore a converged existence between our digital and physical worlds. New immersive and intelligent experiences could begin to appear sooner than many think as we start building a data-driven intelligent information society. But with great power comes great responsibility, and there needs to be extreme caution around exactly how big data will be used.
Strictly speaking, it's a little too early to be talking about 6G. We still don't know too much about what exciting possibilities and opportunities 5G will bring yet. However, before we get too carried away, it's important to remember these visions for 6G are just a way of giving major industry players a head start on the research and development plans for the future.
The new technology is expected to hit the market by around 2030, but the development of 6G begins now. As entire nations upgrade their legacy thinking, we can expect the intensifying tech race to continue. So, it's time to think bigger than Netflix downloads and explore how 6G could pave the way for connected intelligence that focuses on solving human and real-world challenges.