Engineering 101

6G Comms a Trillion-dollar Opportunity says IDTechEx

With 5G communications finally rolling out worldwide, it’s no time to rest. 6G communications is targeting 2030, so according to IDTechEx, the race is officially on.

6G comms officially started in 2020 with over one billion dollars committed and a Chinese satellite sent up to experiment. Finland, Korea, and China are actively researching the terahertz electronics at the heart of 6G. Research grants and investments are starting to add up. See the IDTechEx appraisal of 6G communications 2021-2041.

6G is about thing-to-thing communications. The basic specifications will embrace sensing, positioning, edge computing, highest definition imaging, and communication. 6G response time will appear to be instant. For the first time, there will be no cell-to-cell handover for mobile devices, eliminating loss of service.

IDT identifies six parameters:

  • First truly 3D coverage and ubiquity. 10k meters above, in space, underwater.
  • Data rate over 100 Gbps, X100 capacity.
  • Accommodates edge devices with no power, low power, low cost.
  • Always low latency/ speed of response <1ms.
  • Reliability 99.99999%. Secure, private, safe, resilient.
  • Massive connectivity 10M devices/ sq. km.

6G will be at least 10x better than 5G, because the frequency will be at least ten times higher. Initial experiments are often taking place at the easier end – 100-300GHz. The upper, ultimate THz frequency is unlikely to be higher than 1THz because, after that, atmospheric attenuation of the beam jumps up to severe levels, and components also become extremely challenging.

The enthusiasm isn’t shared by some that say 5G is proving so expensive it may never be fully deployed. They suggest that those needing more will get it from a higher frequency version of 5G with no more standards needed. IDTechEx notes that 6G cannot happen without something that does not exist and may never be affordable.THz beams are narrow, weak, and do not go round corners. Almost anything stops them, so you need smart surfaces even in your private house to provide access everywhere to redirect, amplify, collimate, polarize, and otherwise manipulate those THz beams.

IDTechEx suggests that, for mobile phones, you take the IDTechEx 5G forecast and move the dates forward by eleven years. The overlap of 5G and 6G functionality will be considerable – at least seven years.

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