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Early commercial 6G deployments anticipated by 2028

Analyst says data security, user privacy and energy sustainably are the key features that make 6G a completely new communication system, not just a better 5G

Even though 5G has barely got out of the blocks after 18 months of service launches, development in 6G communications is gathering momentum, says a study from ABI Research.

According to the 6G standards and market developments application analysis report, 2028 and 2029 will be the early commercial deployment years for 6G, with the first standard technology expected around 2026.

As it made its argument for the roll-out of 6G, ABI noted that many countries worldwide have already deployed their 5G networks, including South Korea, China, the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and Germany. Yet alongside these commercial deployment activities, academia and industry are starting to envision the sixth generation of wireless technology for the 2030s, and many related research projects have already started.

ABI said 5G networks are designed to provide a peak data rate of 20Gbps and an average user experience rate of 120Mbps. But the analyst added that these numbers probably need to be revised to 1,000Gbps and 1Gbps, respectively, in 6G to support applications such as holographic communications and X reality, which is a combination of augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality.

ABI sees this as a promising solution for 6G to create a mixed real and virtual environment with either real-time or non-real-time human-machine interaction, where THz communications can play a vital role due to its extremely wide bandwidth.

Also, in-band full-duplex technology will enable communication nodes to learn or sense other available channels while transmitting data, which shortens the latency and improves spectrum efficiency. ABI believes that by combining artificial intelligence/machine learning technology with distributed computing, the rapid growth of data volume and highly complex network architecture foreseen in 6G will easily be processed and managed to meet dynamic connectivity needs.

“Self-organisation and self-healing capabilities of a network to support autonomous driving, drone swarming and pervasive networking are also critical to reduce the time and cost of network deployment and offer greater mobile coverage,” said Jiancao Hou, 5G and mobile network infrastructure senior analyst at ABI Research. “In the 2030s, 6G could be the key enabler to realising ubiquitous connectivity, with a wide range of devices/sensors using diverse communication environments.”

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Investigating the state of 6G development, ABI said that since 2018, Finland’s 6G Flagship Program, led by the University of Oulu, has started validating theoretical research and providing early industry prototyping. It added that many other countries, including China, South Korea, the European Union and the US, have also launched projects, programmes and alliances to reshape the 6G framework and main business focus.

Standardisation and relative authorities, such as the International Telecommunication Union and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, have also shown great interest in supporting potential 6G use case and requirement studies. The US Federal Communications Commission has opened 95GHz to 3THz spectrum to offer a 10-year licence for companies to test and verify their potential new products and services for 6G.

“Processing complexity and the energy consumption of devices and infrastructure hardware are main factors that could limit advanced wireless technologies’ development progress,” said Hou. “Dynamic spectrum and computing resource allocation and highly efficient interference mitigation algorithm designs are also the keys to offering guaranteed network service and user experience.

“With the advent of big data, cloud-native computing and networking, artificial intelligence/machine learning and open source, networks’ security and users’ privacy are becoming even more crucial and will be well addressed by 6G.”

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