Hello again Fierce readers. After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus from Fierce to work for a startup, I’m currently taking some time off to travel the world and see some sights other than trade show convention halls. However, I’ll be checking in every now and then to provide you with my latest insights and observations on the telecom world.
Unlike many of you, I was not in Barcelona, Spain, last week for the industry’s annual Mobile World Congress trade show. But I did monitor the conference from afar. And I was not surprised to see that 5G dominated nearly every news article and announcement.
5G, of course, is top of mind here in the U.S. where operators are racing to deploy the technology while at the same time upgrading their 4G LTE networks and densifying their networks with small cells.
So why am I writing about 6G when 5G is still in its infancy? 6G first caught my attention last month when President Trump tweeted this on Feb. 21:
I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on.........— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2019
Many in the industry dismissed that tweet, because everyone knows 6G isn’t really a thing. Or is it?
For the folks at the University of Oulu in Finland, 6G is very real. The university, in conjunction with a group called 6G Flagship, was at Mobile World Congress talking about 6G and looking for companies to join its efforts.
And 6G Flagship is hosting an event in Levi, Finland, later this month, aptly called the 6G Summit, which will explore such advanced concepts as artificial intelligence, holograms, and automated everything from cars to semi trucks to shipping containers. Although specifics about 6G are scarce, the 6G Flagship website says it will likely use spectrum in the terahertz radio frequencies and will make use of mesh networking.
Event sponsors include Nokia Bell Labs and the IEEE. But before you buy your plane ticket to Finland, you'd better check with event organizers. This is an invitation-only conference. The list of speakers includes folks from some well-regarded organizations including Nokia Bell Labs, IEEE, and of course all the major telecom vendors like Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei.
But 6G Flagship isn’t the only group researching the next generation of networking technology.
There is also an International Telecommunications Union focus group, called Network 2030, that was formed last July. This group is looking at network capabilities that will be necessary in the year 2030 and beyond. According to the ITU web page, those capabilities include holographic-type communications and high-precision communications.
Both these groups seem very early in their research and both are eyeing 2030 for commercialization of 6G. Of course, that distant timeline is not surprising since the industry is still debating what 5G is and how to monetize it.
But back to my original premise—is it too early to talk about 6G? Yes, I think it’s too early for the industry to speculate. I don’t think anyone can take 6G conversations seriously at this point. However, I’m all for researchers at the University of Oulu or the members of the ITU’s Network 2030 plotting a path forward for wireless networking beyond what we can imagine today. Let’s just not call it 6G—at least not yet. — Sue
Sue Marek has been reporting on the telecom and tech industries for more than 25 years. Most recently, she was editor in chief at SDxCentral, where she oversaw all of that site’s editorial content. Prior to that she was editor in chief of FierceMarkets' Telecom Group, where she managed a team of editors and was responsible for the content for several of the company’s websites, newsletters and live events. Sue is a frequent speaker at industry events and has moderated panels for the Consumer Electronics Show, the Competitive Carriers’ Show, The Wireless Infrastructure Show, 5G North America, DC 5G, Interop, and more. Follow @SueMarek on Twitter and find her on LinkedIn.