Article

• Mar 08 2022

6G ready? First, what about 5G?

5 min read

It seems like the ink is barely dry on the contracts for 5G frequencies, and already prospecting has begun for the 6G goldrush. With so many extravagant predictions about 6G’s capabilities, it’s no wonder that businesses feel such urgency. Commentators expect speeds 100 times faster than 5G, but they don’t stop there. Some claim that 6G devices will be able to see behind walls and charge themselves by absorbing environmental energy.

With that on the putative horizon, it would seem like commercial self-sabotage not to keep up. However, the extravagance of some of the claims around 6G should lead you to ask how you can distinguish hysteria from an extraordinary, but altogether more sober, forecast. For fear of missing out, companies could find themselves throwing good money at a service that won’t see a commercial return until far into the future – and fail to capitalise on lucrative, if challenging, products in the here and now (we are, of course, talking about 5G).

What is 6G?

The short answer is nobody knows. That in itself tells you a lot. Governments and corporations are devoting a lot of time, money, and energy to something that’s currently more concept than reality.

6G refers to the next generation of cellular technology, whatever that may be. The 5G network offers carrier bandwidth of 100 MHz, and some estimate its successor will increase that to 400MHz.

What that would mean in practice is yet to be seen, but we have some ideas. Mahyar Shirvanimoghaddam, of the University of Sydney, suggests 6Gspeeds could be one terabyte per second. Putting that in consumer terms, he describes it as the capacity to download 142 hours of highest definition Netflix video in one second. It’s impressive, and it’s easy to understand the appeal, but at this moment, it seems difficult to argue that the average consumer needs that ability.

In a world where 5G is young, relatively undeveloped, and only available in some parts of the countries that have it, you might ask the question, ‘Are we jumping the gun?’

The race has begun

In the face of the developments already happening, it’s not irrational to consider 6G a commercial reality. It’s expected to roll out in the 2030s (some say earlier). There are already 38,000 patents for 6G-related technology, and Asia is leading the way.

China claims 35% of those patents. Singapore, Vietnam, and India have declared their ambitions for 6G. Singapore’s USD50m Future Communications Research and Development Program includes 6G research and development. Vietnam intends to license 6G frequencies by 2028. Ashwini Vainshaw, India’s Minister for Communication, says the subcontinent will develop and launch its own 6G technology by 2024.

Commercial players are making moves on the same board. Samsung has ten times more 6G patents than the next ten companies combined. Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei instructed his employees to ‘break limits in the sky’ in the development of 6G.

In the US, the ‘Next G Alliance’ is a consortium including Apple, Google, Cisco, AT&T, Bell Canada, Ericsson, Facebook, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, T-Mobile, Verizon, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, LG Electronics, and VMware, among others.

With governments and the world’s largest tech firms taking 6G so seriously, it’s easy to feel like you should too.

Arms race

It’s natural that the prospect of faster, more powerful technology inspires a rush for territory. Each company thinks that if they don’t get there, others will, and they’ll be left behind.

That said, you might ask yourself: if you were left behind, would it matter?

If 4G or 5G serve your purposes, and 6G wouldn’t dramatically improve your offering or customer experience, then you needn’t be anxious to jump on the bandwagon.

Give yourself and your new 5G offering room to breathe.

Perhaps you can afford to find out what the 6G future holds by letting the 5G present play out. By developing, learning, and improving your 5G offering, you may understand 6G’s potential. Even Huawei, with its zeal for 6G, holds that view. Zhengfei stated: ‘We have parallel work being done on 5G and 6G, ’and that 6G is in an ‘early phase' with ‘a long way to go’.

The right questions

How you find the best approach to 6G relies on your team. The right minds with the right experience will help you establish how the technology fits with your business goals, and, crucially, whether it’s necessary to your product.

Those same people will look forward while keeping one eye on present potential. Vitally, they’ll not forget that the ultimate purpose of this cellular innovation is commercial. It’s a point too easily forgotten, but technological innovation is all for nothing if it doesn’t offer something to your customers.

That talent is hard to find. It’s rare and in demand. Acquiring it requires a deep network, a huge time investment, and extensive relationships.

RPI specialises in sourcing the candidates who fit your aims for the present, who also drive your business’s future. Whether you need commercial leads to drive your goals, or the technology experts and developers who can make them happen, we can source and secure them for you. Contact people@rpint.com.

RPI provides access to the top leadership and technology talent globally