When shall We Get 6G Networks?
Why do we need 6G Networks?
While half of the globe is still wondering how long it will take to have access to 5G networks and what it could mean to the lives and economies, a bunch of telecommunications researchers is looking forward to what comes after 5G. Technically, it is 6G.
Last year in Levi, Finland, a group of 250 researchers gathered for a global summit on the 6G wireless standard to ask the most basic questions such as what it is and why the world needs it.
Ari Pouttu, a professor at the University of Oulu, Finland, responded, “I don’t know, so does anybody know.”
That’s a bluff assessment from the vice-director of Finland’s 6G Flagship program. A media tour of the region’s tech ecosystem, Ari Pouttu gave a presentation to a group of journalists.
The country picked Oulu, located on the edge of the Baltic Sea above five hours north of Helsinki. It is the center of its 6G efforts due to its historical connections to Nokia and its concentration of researchers. Researches, including Pouttu, were instrumental in developing the 5G standard. The program will run over the next seven years, with a value of $285 million. Half of the funding is coming from the public and another half to be raised from industry partners.
These efforts are in an embryonic stage. Today 5G networks have just started to roll out. The current 4G LTE standard will dominate for some more years as telecom carriers seek to recoup their enormous investments on that infrastructure. Ari Pouttu estimates existing 4G networks won’t be used to their full potential until 2025.
In the meantime, carriers are proceeding cautiously with 5G. Pouttu says, “The research community was surprised because some of the basic standards were settled much earlier than expected.” However, the rollout of 5G is far more expensive than 4G due to the latency. Also, it calls for the need of a greater density of equipment to transmit the signals. The capital values are astronomically high, and the business models, which would justify such investments, are still blurred.
Pouttu expects when 5G becomes the dominant network, it would the most transformational leap since the evolution from 2G to 3G networks. Even though 5G promises theoretical speeds of 20 Gbps compared to the max theoretical 1 Gbps for 4G with zero latency, it supports a greater density of connections in a tiny area.
Advances of edge computing will push more intelligence toward end devices. The 5G era is being hyped for its capability to enable small cities, small factories, autonomous vehicles, untethered VR streaming, and so on.
Following the questions such as why we need 4G when 3G is available, 5G, when we have 4G, why do we need 6G? Mapping out the problem, Pottu says, “We want to see what’s leftover from 5G, what things 5G not addressed.”
The most predicted starting points are speed and spectrum. The initial focus is that 6G will target speeds of 1 terabyte per second. To get such signals at this speed, it will require to be transmitted above one terahertz compared to the measly gigahertz range where 5G operates. Pouttu says, “Operating at that range in the spectrum may need breakthroughs in material research, new computing architectures, chip designs, and new ways of coupling with energy sources.”
Power generation and power consumption loom are considerable obstacles in terms of the environment and cost. Moving to a world where nearly every single object produced is continuously collecting, analyzing, and transmitting data without cost-efficient, renewable power sources to confirm we don’t burn down the planet in the process is a significant concern.
The researchers want to start outlining possible use cases and future scenarios for the technology simultaneously. Wherein the 5G era is expected to make the smartphone less centerpiece of our lives; today, Pouttu anticipates 6G will be a post smartphone era.
With the capability of everything gets connected, almost every object will be data-driven. The ability of all items to capture and process visual data will be vast and accelerate automation and the evolution of AI.
Pouttu states, “Each standard roughly takes a decade to develop, and so the formalizing of 6G standards is being targeted for 2029-2030.” His research team projects the world will use 5G until 2035. And by 2030, 6G standards and enabled devices will be started rolling out.