6G needs to be different

6G needs to be different

With the precision of a swiss watch, no sooner has 5G just started to be rolled out in 2020 than the first conversations began on 6G. Many mobile operators were aghast at the thought of there ever being a 6G, as they struggled to convince their shareholders that the substantial 5G investments still to come were necessary. But, for the research community, it was natural for them to begin to think beyond 5G. The large system vendors have also been quick off the mark to come out with their own 6G visions. The 10-year “mobile generation” investment cycles provide them with an assured future. The battle over whether 5G should be the last of the “mobile generations” was lost over the last 6 months of 2020.  There will be a 6G.

The debate emerging by the end of 2020 was whether 6G would go down the traditional path of a new radio access technology offering considerably high data speeds and rolled out in a new higher Terahertz (THz) frequency band or should be something completely different.

On November 12th the University of Surrey 5GIC launched their 6G White Paper. It presented a powerful argument that the traditional approach was no longer sustainable as with  each new generation, operators are faced with increased challenges of managing return on capital invested for viable levels of mobile coverage…the very life-blood of a mobile service. 6G has to take a new direction, not only to meet new and ongoing market needs, but to ensure feasibility and economic viability.

The argument that 6G has to be different is easy to win. If the mobile operators are not convinced by the vendors’ 6G traditional approach offering…it is not going to happen, as they are the principal customers for mobile public network systems. But what completely new direction should 6G take? This is the immense challenge and particularly as the world heads into a very uncertain future.

The  University of Surrey suggest that linking 6G to the great societal challenges ahead of climate change, pandemic control and sustainably economic growth should be this new path. It is an inspiring place to start. It certainly offers an immense research opportunity. The emerging 6G innovations also have to unlock new revenue opportunities to enable the mobile operators to break out of  their current business models in order to continue investing in better wireless infrastructure over the next 20 years.

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