One sure sign that a technology, or segment, or platform, whatever, has lost its luster is when the industry starts talking about the “next” iteration of it. Even if it has not gained much traction.
Some of the aphorisms we have around how quickly things move on are sayings such as the body is not even cold and there is already a fight over the estate. In a rather offbeat, segue that parallelism is showing up in the 5G environment.
5G is barely a glimmer in the eye of the wireless world. Last year it was going to be everything to everybody. Yet here and there, noise of 6G is heard. To this editor any, other than a whimsical, mention of 6G is absurd. While we have a concept of what 5G will look like, we have seen that early realities are not living up to the hype. In addition, as verticals for 5G unfold, the industry is discovering any number of speedbumps – from citizen concerns to exposure, to municipal red tape, to battles among contenders (spectrum), to the realities of performance.
Of course, 5G is in its infancy and speedbumps are to be expected. New verticals are popping up like mushrooms after a spring gully washer. Yet, we will be waiting years, if not decades, for 5G to become ubiquitous and fundamentally change how things interconnect – from voice calls to smart everything. So it seem rather academic when companies are discussing 6G. But that isn’t stopping Samsung from looking to the future.
There have been a couple of recent upticks it the 6G space. Recently Samsung has started what they call “leading research on the 6G network.” And, more recently, my friend and colleague, Ted Rappaport et al, published a paper on next generation wireless networks. At least he notes that it will 6G and Beyond and it looks at communications and applications in the 100 GHz and higher space. The paper can be found here: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8732419.
One thing about work from NYU and other academic institutions is that they include some meat. For companies like Samsung it is usually attention-getting diatribe that says nothing. For example, Samsung made comments that 6G would likely be highly AI rich – tell me something I do not know. AI has been discussed to death in next generation wireless networks and the common understanding is that AI will be the great enabler for 5G. By default that would just scale up in 6G.
Now, there is talk that 6G (or everything G – EG as I like to call it) will have data speeds of 1 TB per second. I have heard that this is the upper metric for 5G, as well, eventually. Another metric is latency. While 5G is shooting for 1 ms, I have heard that the upper target for 5G latency is 0.1 ms. That is pretty good and I can’t see too many cases where that will not work.
It is difficult to see that far into the future, regardless of what Samsung and other have to say, today. Hard to say what EG will look like when it’s all said and done. Where I would put my development, money is in bandwidth and spectrum. That is why I like what Rappaport and other have to say because that is what they focus on.
One of the major issues I have with talking about next-generation technologies, when the ink is not even dry on the present one, is that it can stifle current generation excitement. If I were, say a major chip manufacturer, I would need some assurance that current generation hardware will deliver RoI. If I smell next generation already, I will certainly take a hard look at what I am doing.
However, that is not really the case with 5G and the likelihood that EG will leapfrog 5G is not seen as reality. Real 5G will not be available, globally, for the majority of consumers for years. And after that, carriers will make improvements to the networks, boost their capacity, and more. In other words, 5G will be here to stay for quite some time.
Meanwhile, Samsung and others will be working on 6G. And although we do not have much of an idea when EG will raise its tentacles, one can bet that it will not happen anytime soon. Mobile network operators are in a bit of a catch 22. They have to follow the 5G roadmap. And until they see some RoI, like hardware vendors, they will want to make back their 5G investments before they’ll even consider moving to a next generation network.
In the end, it will be interesting to see just how much faster things go. Quite frankly, mobile technology, to me, is still in the prehistoric stage when it comes to performance and functionality. Even if my smartphone had a 1 Gb highway, its app performance is dismal. I argue that with any number of people and even those that say they have a fast network and phone, it is still wayyyy slower and less robust than my desktop setup.
So, not only is it about bandwidth. I need much better performance from my mobile devices. If, indeed, EG happens before I go senile, it will be interesting to see just how fast this stuff is.