6G Internet: Everything You Need to Know
Let’s talk about 6G internet. We know what you’re thinking. “Wait – what do you mean, 6G? I’m still trying to wrap my head around 5G!” That’s fair. In fact, as recently as February 2022, even the FAA was trying to work out what kind of an impact new 5G towers might have on Boeing 737 planes near airports and went so far as to issue revised landing strategies in response to the unknowns regarding possible 5G network interference.
But 6G is a concept that is being widely discussed and researched despite the ongoing development of 5G wireless. And although it’s probably no surprise that the technology that runs our lives is continuously evolving and improving with each potential upgrade, there are always lots of questions, too. If you’re among those scratching their head and thinking, “what will 6G even mean for my life,” we can help. We’ve done a deep dive into all the questions you may have to help you be better prepared for what the future of 6G technology may bring.
What is 6G technology?
6G stands for sixth-generation, although it is currently mostly a concept and not in existence just yet. The 6G concept will ultimately build on the foundation already set in place by both 5G and 4G LTE wireless technology.
The purpose of 6G will be to take advantage of using higher-frequency radio bands to achieve a network with higher capacity (faster speeds) and lower latency (fewer delays). While it’s still too soon to know exactly what that will mean for wireless technology as a whole, there’s a lot of excitement and talk about what that could be. Some say it could even be the beginning of a “new internet.”
How is 6G different from 4G and 5G?
The most notable difference between 6G, 5G, and 4G is speed. For instance, when we talk about 4G LTE networks and technology, we typically talk about internet speed in terms of megabits (Mbps). In fact, if you take a look at current internet service provider (ISP) plan options, you’ll see most ISP plans range between 25Mbps to 1000Mbps (or 1Gbps.)
With the implementation of 5G technology, we’ve started to see the introduction of much faster speeds. For example, Google Fiber and Xfinity currently have internet plans as fast as 2000Mbps (in limited areas), while AT&T has plans as fast as 3000Mbps and 5000Mbps (also in limited areas). As the 5G framework continues to expand, access to these faster speeds will become more common throughout the US.
While many companies are still only in the early stages of building out their 5G network, 6G internet will potentially change the conversation about speed from Mbps to terabits per second (Tbps) – which is essentially 1,000x faster than 1000Mbps internet. At speeds like this, you could potentially download 142 hours of Netflix movies in one second. One. Second.
Scientists are imagining a world where 6G will not require a “wired” network and will instead be decentralized, with individual devices working as antennas. This could also mean that the network would not be under the control of a specific network operator, and some believe this technology will also help power autonomous cars, drones and “smart cities.” A smart city, according to Cisco, means a city that, “uses digital technology to connect, protect, and enhance the lives of citizens.”
It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? And what will we even call all these new ways in which we navigate the world around us? For instance, if we currently call 1Gbps internet “lightning-fast speed”, what will we call 1Tbps internet that’s 1,000x faster? Don’t worry – there’s still time to work all the catchphrases out. According to experts, the expected launch of 6G isn’t until sometime between 2028 and 2032.
What infrastructure will be required for 6G?
Since 6G is still only a concept, there’s a lot of talk and research going into understanding what will be required to make it a reality. Recently Forbes took a shot at predicting the infrastructure needed for the future of 6G technology and outlined 5 key elements they believe will be necessary before 6G comes online.
Rethinking seamless networks
Even with 5G currently being considered the global standard – there’s still a long way to go before all systems are a go on 5G, and 6G technology will require 5G to be fully integrated before it can build upon that framework.
Creating global industry standards
With 5G technology still evolving, industry standards are still being re-evaluated on a global basis and it will only be through “joint projects, trials and demonstrations” that stakeholders will be able to anticipate the industry standards needed for 6G technology.
Taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity
Each generation of wireless internet has had its share of cybersecurity issues, and it’s only through addressing those issues and learning from them that the next generation of potential cybersecurity can be built. So while 5G is still a work in progress – it’s hard to anticipate what will be needed to build out cybersecurity for 6G.
Enabling innovation, accessibility, and safety through policy
Policymakers and industry leaders will need to work together to find a way to make 6G technology accessible to all people, including those in rural and low-income areas with a goal of “closing the social, educational and economic gap between those who have internet and those who don’t.”
Empowering the next generation of engineers
Forbes believes that both corporations and educational institutions will need to work together to increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM subjects) so that the next generation is prepared to drive the innovation needed to make 6G technology a reality.
In other words, there is still a LOT of work to do before 6G can be considered the future of wireless internet.
Who are the big players working on 6G technology?
As you can probably imagine, there are a lot of moving parts when imagining and implementing the creation and advancement of brand new technology. Companies and countries from around the world are all working independently as well as together to develop 6G wireless.
While Samsung led the race of filing patents during the development of 5G technology, currently a company called Huawei (a telecommunications company based in China) is leading the way for patents related to the development of 6G technology. China also has a satellite deployed solely for the sake of researching 6G.
Large tech companies including Qualcomm, Apple, Google, and LG are also involved in 6G research and development. And though Europe lacks telecommunications giants, they are launching a pioneering center in order to stay ahead of the 6G game in terms of research, innovation, and education. Europe is also leading the way for metamaterial research while the US is leading the way for the production of metamaterials.
If you’re wondering what metamaterials are, according to Meta, “metamaterials are a new class of functional materials, designed around unique patterns or structures, which cause them to interact with light and other forms of energy in ways not found in nature.”
What are the advantages of 6G?
The simplest answer to what advantages 6G technology will bring to the world is that 6G wireless will have the ability to support speeds of 1Tbps – which means everything will move faster than most people might be able to imagine as of today. Downloads, uploads, apps – everything will happen faster. And in conjunction with the implementation of a lot of scientific theories like sampling rates, throughput, sub-mmWave, and electromagnetic absorption – we can expect major advances in all kinds of related technologies, too.
A paper published December 21, 2021, by Akhtar, M.W., Hassan, S.A., Ghaffar, R. et al. titled, “The Shift to 6G communications: vision and requirements” asserts that we might see a wide range of technological advances including biosensors that can quickly detect and track infectious diseases, major strides in the use of holographic transmissions, and the use of “autonomous and intelligent robots” to explore previously unreachable areas (like the deep ocean and deep space).
Others suspect that 6G technology will greatly increase access to, and use of, AI technology in many aspects of our daily lives. And many believe that 6G technology will be the driving factor (no pun intended) to make autonomous cars a reality.
What are the disadvantages of 6G?
Many of the disadvantages of 6G that are being discussed among research and development teams around the world seem to focus more on how to build out the needed infrastructure rather than the 6G technology itself.
6G will be built using “cell-less” architecture which will require “seamless mobility and integration of different kinds of links (THz, VLC, mmWave, sub-6GHz).” Therefore, building this new type of network architecture could be a challenge.
It’s also possible that the technology could be difficult to use for some due to the learning curve of adapting to new technology, and there is a concern that 6G will be very expensive. There’s still so much to learn before 6G becomes a reality, so it may be too soon to clearly define what the disadvantages of 6G internet might be.
FAQs about 6G internet
When will 6G internet be available?
There is a lot of speculation about when 6G internet will be available – although different experts give different answers. According to research by Samsung, their expectation is that the very first 6G products will be launched around 2028, but won’t be widely available until at least 2030. CNET, on the other hand, doesn’t believe we’ll see the first glimpse of 6G products until at least 2029, and others predict the launch will be closer to 2032.
The truth is, we don’t know what we don’t know, so the exact timeline for the launch of 6G technology could be sooner than we realize, or farther away. There’s still a lot of research and development that needs to happen before anyone can truly be sure.
Will 6G replace 5G?
Just like the popularity of cassette tapes slowly phased out with the introduction of CDs and landlines practically became non-existent as cell phones became more easily accessible and universally used – 6G will eventually cause a phase-out of 5G technology. As of now though, 4G LTE wireless is still very much in use even though the framework for 5G technology is slowly being built out and we can expect the same will be true when 6G is launched. Any new technology takes time to be built out and then become easily accessible and affordable.
In short, will 6G replace 5G? It’s very likely that it eventually will – but the reality of that happening is still at least 15 or more years away.
In conclusion, even though 5G technology is still in the beginning stages of becoming available within the US, the research into what will come next is already well on its way. And though there are still many particulars to work out regarding 6G technology including building infrastructure, aligning cyber-security, and making sure our next generation of researchers, scientists, and engineers are fully equipped to reimagine the internet as we know it – it is exciting to think about all the possibilities. We may not know exactly what a world running on 6G technology will be like right now, but it sure is interesting to imagine all the ways in which our everyday lives may change when it arrives.
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