As 5G networks proliferate across the U.S., technology developers are starting to think about 6G. A new 56-page report from 5G Americas offers a look at what’s likely to be ahead for 6G, including capabilities such as seven 9s reliability, the use of terahertz spectrum bands, sub-networks and more.
The report authors expect to see 6G commercial deployments begin in 2030. Hence, the report title is “Mobile Communications Towards 2030.”
Some of the capabilities contemplated for 6G are aimed at pushing advances made for 5G even further.
Data speeds are expected to jump to as high as one terabit per second (Tbps), the report notes. The long-lived telecom five 9s reliability (meaning the network is available 99.999% of the time) could increase to seven 9s. Jitter and latency requirements also are expected to become stricter – air interface latency could be less than 10 nanoseconds.
Power usage will also have to decrease, the report says. Massive scale IoT may require devices to operate unattended for 10 years, or perhaps never need to be charged.
Other potential requirements may be more unique to 6G, such as:
- High density of endpoints resulting from burgeoning IoT usage
- Synchronization of multiple flows to multiple devices. As the report notes, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and holographic communications are expected to use multiple simultaneous traffic flows, requiring packet arrival to be synchronized.
- Precise location tracking. Certain 6G applications will require the ability to precisely track the location of objects in the user’s vicinity. Next-generation systems will require tracking along three dimensions of movement, as well as pitch, yaw and rotation.
To obtain sufficient spectrum to achieve these requirements, the industry is eyeing a wide swath of spectrum at even higher frequencies than the millimeter wave spectrum used for some 5G deployments. In 2019, the FCC freed up spectrum between 95 GHz and 3 terahertz (3 THz) for experimental use.
The wide swath of high-frequency spectrum should support faster speeds but will require extremely dense infrastructure. Challenges to be overcome include “low loss between antenna and integrated system, proper heat dissipation, [and] low power data conversion (analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog)” the report notes.
The authors note some advantages to the short wavelengths in the 95 GHz-3 THz band, however, including “accurate sensing, imaging, spectroscopy and pencil beams for highly accurate angular positioning.”
They also note that extremely low-power consumption radios should be possible by closely locating mmWave and THz transmitter and antenna components.
Another interesting capability under consideration for 6G is sub-networks, which the report defines as “several devices connected to an access point and part of a 6G network.” Examples could include in-body, in-robot, and in-car sub-networks, as well as swarms of drones.
The sub-networks will be customizable. For example, an in-body network might optimize reliability and latency in conjunction with high sensor density, while a drone network might be optimized for link budget performance and ad-hoc cooperation.
These are just some of the highlights of the 5G Americas 6G report. Readers interested in more details can find the report at this link.