Qualcomm’s R&D chief: ‘There will be a 6G probably’

Qualcomm’s Durga Malladi (Mike Dano/FierceWireless)
Qualcomm’s Durga Malladi discussed the possibility of 6G at a Qualcomm event.

SAN DIEGO—As carriers ranging from Verizon to Sprint rush to switch on the nation’s first 5G services, some executives are already talking about what might be next.

“There will be a 6G probably,” said Qualcomm’s Durga Malladi, in response to a question on the topic. Malladi’s comments carry a significant amount of weight considering he’s the executive in charge of research and development at Qualcomm, a company widely regarded as one of the world’s leading innovators in wireless technology and a key contributor to the recently completed 5G standard.

But, Malladi noted, there are no concrete plans around a 6G network standard; moreover, Malladi explained, the companies that developed the 5G standard did so with an eye toward making sure it would be flexible enough to support significant changes and upgrades in the future, potentially negating the need for a move to 6G.

That said: “We will probably do another G,” Malladi said explained here during a Qualcomm-financed press event.

Qualcomm executives aren’t the only ones looking beyond the 5G horizon.

“Our 5G wireless tests are also going well, as are our 6G tests, which is our pre-spec definition of the integration of small cell architecture using unlicensed and licensed Spectrum working together interchangeably with our advanced DOCSIS roadmap to create high capacity, low latency product offerings,” said Charter CEO Tom Rutledge during his company’s recent quarterly earnings conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event.

Rutledge continued: “When it comes to 5G, fixed, … you got to remember 5G is just a format puts in data at a certain speed and there are alternatives to 5G can, which is why we talk about 6G, it’s kind of like that number of longer and its final path, but, there are a lot of ways to get speed. 5G isn’t the only way to provide a high-capacity low-latency network. And so, what is a 5G fixed network? It sounds to me like, it’s a wireless drop that costs more than a wireline drop. And what do you attach it to? You have to attach it to a network, just like you do all wire drop connections. And so, I see all the same kind of costs necessary to build a 5G network as there is to build a wireline network and maybe more.”

When questioned about Rutledge’s comments on 6G, the executives from T-Mobile during their own quarterly conference call laughed at the notion and generally derided Charter and other cable companies as late to the wireless game.

Further, Qualcomm’s Serge Willenegger said during the company’s press event that “it’s way too early for 6G.”

Willenegger, the company's SVP and GM for 4G/5G and industrial IoT, added that the “economics of the network” would need to change to require a move to some future 6G standard. “It’s more philosophical thinking at this point,” he said. “But we’re definitely thinking about how to support the industry in the next 6, 7, 10 years.”