China leapfrogs the world with 6G

China leapfrogs the world with 6G. Source: Shutterstock

What will 6G communications look like in 10 years?

  • While 5G has just started large-scale commercialization around the world, the industry’s research and exploration of 6G is on the agenda

Starting from last year, we’ve already seen the first commercial 5G networks being rolled out across the globe, including a good number focused in Asia Pacific (APAC) in markets like Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and South Korea — the first country with commercial 5G.

But while 5G networks will be incrementally rolled out in more and more territories and slowly replace 4G LTE networks over the next five years, research into developing 6G connectivity is already underway. Chinese hardware manufacturer Vivo’s telecommunications R&D center, the Vivo Communications Research Institute, recently released two white papers, entitled 6G Vision, Requirements and Challenges and Digital Life 2030+.

The white papers make an educated hypothesis that wireless network replacement cycles occur about once every 10 years. 5G is now slowly starting to supersede 4G in terms of coverage, and some estimates put 5G speeds at up to 100x faster than 4G.

Hence, the papers project that 6G will be launched around 2030, a decade from now. But what will be the actual 6G characteristics and capabilities?

Qin Fei, head of the Vivo Communications Research Institute

Qin Fei, head of the Vivo Communications Research Institute. Source: vivo

The Digital Life 2030+ paper collected 6G application scenarios from over 800 college graduates and over 20 digital and media experts, as well as studying forecast reports of related industries for the 2030 time frame, along with development plans of multiple government institutions for the next 10 years.

Compared with the current 5G, Vivo Communications’ report believes that the upgrade to 6G lies in dimensions. While current communication tech standards can only provide a connection and a digitization capacity, 6G is to strengthen the two and combine them with intelligent development, which will be able to provide computing, storage, and communication integration services at the same time.

‘Intelligent’ communication and seamless integration with various components will apparently be a big focus of 6G. For instance, current technology sees collaborative tools and software helping to create an immersive remote working environment.

But in 2030, we may only need to scan our faces on the facial recognition built into our computers to log in to the office system. By the time we get to our workspace, the intelligent AI office secretary will have automatically arranged the work tasks of the day according to the priority of urgency, and display it on the workstation. All this requires a large amount of process and interactive work at the same time, but this distributed office experience is expected to become a normal state after the popularization of 6G.

The head of the Vivo Communications Research Institute, Qin Fei, believes that the emergence of 6G can bring a freely-connected world of physical and digital convergence, with a high degree of integration and interaction between the two. 6G capabilities will serve thousands of industries and promote the efficient, healthy, and sustainable development of society.

“The 6G era is still a decade away, so it’s very difficult to give concrete answers right now,” said Qin Fei. “However, as the core features of 4G and 5G are connection and digitalization, we can say with confidence that the core features of 6G will be connection and digitization as well as intelligence.”

Qin emphasized that 6G won’t simply be equal to 5G + AI technology, as some have speculated. Instead, 6G will integrate more radio access technologies, cover a wider physical space, along with providing stronger basic capabilities such as communication, computing, storage, and data, and support internet communication data technology (ICDT) convergence services.