6G technology, 5G and LG – what’s it really all about?
LG demonstrated progress in its 6G technology at the 2021 Korea Science and Technology Exhibition last week, but is it as groundbreaking as everyone is making it out to be?
To understand more, let’s talk a little bit about wireless communication technology.
There are four categories of wireless communication technology: RF (radio frequency) transmission, IR (infrared frequency) transmission; microwave transmission, and lightwave transmission.
All of them are based on something called electromagnetic (EM) waves, which can carry information between receiving and transmitting devices (and no, they won’t give you Covid-19).
5th generation mobile network (5G) is a type of RF, and so are its predecessors, as well as WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. RF signals range from 3 kHz to 300 GHz, and the higher the frequency, the more efficient it is in transmitting data.
High-frequency RF signals are ideal for wireless communication networks because of their ability to penetrate through objects (think buildings, doors, windows, etc) as opposed to other types of EM waves.
The 5G advantage
The key performance indicator for mobile networking communications evolution lies in how fast data can be transferred over the network.
For 5G and above, this is manifested in what the industry terms ‘ultra-high’ data speeds, low-latency (the time it takes to transmit signals between transmitters and receivers — e.g. cell tower and mobile phone), and increased bandwidth availability.
So 5G networking technology offers wider bandwidths, and it can also operate in lower frequency bands (6 GHz) that 4G typically uses. 5G can use the mmWave frequency — i.e. 24 GHz and up.
RF frequency transmitters, especially for mobile network technologies such as 5G and 6G, rely on a device called a power amplifier.
They essentially convert low-frequency bandwidths into higher bandwidths and are a critical component in cell towers.
But the frequency alone doesn’t determine its speed. 5G has bigger channels, which speeds data transfers up.
Furthermore, installing 5G is far less of a hassle because their transmitters are so small. As such, they can be easily fitted onto existing 4G base stations, on top of their own 5G base stations.
But wait, that’s not all!
The small form factor of 5G tech means they can be fitted onto any structure, such as bus stops or benches — making it nearer and far more available to users.
This also means it is excellent for IIOT, which will drive the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0). The massive 5G speed bump can mean a world of difference for mission-critical applications requiring sensitivity and speed for faster response times.
So what makes 6G special?
As mentioned above, the KPI for mobile networking communications is its speed. 6G will far surpass 5G because it can operate at terahertz frequency bands (THz).
To recall, current RF bands operate from 3 kHz to 300 GHz. 6G will operate at 1,000 GHz, or, 1 THz.
Furthermore, it is supposed to have a latency below 100 microseconds. To put it into perspective, 6G will be 100 times faster than 5G, have enhanced reliability, and far wider networking coverage.
According to de Alwis et. al (2021), emerging applications such as the Internet of Everything, Holographic Telepresence, collaborative robots, and space and deep-sea tourism are showing the limitations of 5G.
Said limitations include data rate, latency, reliability, availability, processing, connection density, and global coverage, spanning over ground, underwater, and space.
As such, 6G tech promises capabilities to overcome these limits of 5G, many leading tech nations such as Korea, Japan, China, and the US have already embarked on research into 6G technology.
Actually, scratch that — they’re now locking heads with each other to see who can be the first to achieve mass-market implementation.
6G from LG
Together with the Fraunhofer Research Institute in Germany, LG showcased its 6G power amplifier for the first time at the 2021 Korea Science and Technology Exhibition.
Using a 6G power amplifier, LG demonstrated the success of data transfer using the 1 THz (1 terahertz) frequency band.
However, this is not the first time the power amplifier was demonstrated. LG had already tested its 6G in Berlin back in August this year. It achieved successful transmission of data on the 1 THz frequency band over a 100-meter distance outdoors.
One downside of 6G, is, as you have read, the distance it can cover is really short, at 100 meters. Furthermore, it experiences power loss during transmission and reception.
These two issues mean that 6G requires higher power amplification in order to generate a stable signal across ultra-wideband frequencies (i.e. above 1 THz). LG admits that these are some of the biggest challenges in the evolution of 6G.
What’s the future of 6G technology like?
While LG’s reveal in Berlin was a milestone in the field of wireless 6G evolution, their progress is still… miles away (sorry) from commercial viability.
The current state of 6G technology is not feasible for mobile networking connectivity, because it would mean you’d need 6G stations every 100 meters. Just imagine how troublesome that would be to implement.
Additionally, a key factor for the success of previous xG networking communications was global standardization. For 6G, this is expected to happen in 2025, with commercialization to happen within four years thereafter.
According to LG, 6G will be a key component of Ambient Internet of Everything (AIoE). AIoE is an emerging technology with IoT at its core — it aims to make environments more sensitive, adaptive, autonomous, and personalized for consumers by recognizing human presence and preferences.
As such, research is still ongoing in the field of 6G development.
Transmission range extension will translate into real-world, commercial application and viability to reduce costs of manufacturing and installing base stations and transmitters.
So, don’t get too excited yet.
Yes, this achievement is quite groundbreaking, but we are barely making headway into 5G implementation across the world, and we’re still dealing with a global semiconductor shortage.
There’s still a lot of time for the experts to do their magical science stuff to bring us the next evolution of wireless communications technology for the masses.
And by that, we mean probably in ten years.
So just sit back, relax, and continue scrolling TikTok with your 5G smartphone.
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