6G is fiber, argues SDN Communications’ CEO

A regional fiber company said it has found 6G, and it’s fiber.

“Small cells or 5G—it’s still all about the wires and what I refer to as the 6G fiber optic networks that support such advances,” said Mark Shlanta, the CEO of fiber company SDN Communications, which operates a fiber network in locations around South Dakota and the Midwest.

“If I’m going to use my smart phone to send a message to my mother across town or my sister, who lives in South Korea, nearly all that communication will travel fiber in the ground or under the ocean; it’s only the very last part of the connection—from the handset to the tower—that is wireless. Today’s 4G and tomorrow’s 5G wireless do not exist without the 6G fiber that empowers them,” Shlanta added

Shlanta made his comments (PDF) recently during U.S. Sen. John Thune’s hearing for the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, dubbed “The Race to 5G: A View from the Field.” The hearing focused on identifying existing barriers to broadband deployment and ways to streamline infrastructure siting.

Not surprisingly, Shlanta praised recent work by the FCC to make it easier for telecommunications companies to deploy additional network equipment, including small cells and fiber. But he also cautioned that regulators should not overstep into local issues, “I also believe the federal and state governments should find balance for local control. We worked cooperatively with governments in Aberdeen, Brookings, and Sioux Falls to make positive local ordinance changes. I’m pleased to say South Dakota Municipal League is aggressively working to create model ordinances for cities, large and small, to attract 5G services to South Dakota.”

Shlanta isn’t the first telecommunications executive to bring up the specter of 6G.

For example, the Wi-Fi Alliance recently introduced “Wi-Fi 6” as the official industry designation for products and networks that support the next generation of Wi-Fi based on 802.11ax technology (though to be clear the branding doesn’t include a “G”).

“There will be a 6G probably,” Qualcomm’s Durga Malladi acknowledged recently, though he said 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.

And the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is working with researchers and others to develop technologies for the high gigahertz and terahertz spectrum that may well form the basis for new wireless technologies.