What's 6G? It's the piece of paper with the squiggly lines on it right here.

What’s 6G? That’s an excellent question. Presently 6G is nothing more than a conversation about the next generation of wireless telephony that will begin to be defined later this year, with deployment slated for 2030 in 4 phases.

In some ways 6G is a wishlist containing everything that 5G can’t do but these imaginings make nailing real world functionality extremely difficult. For instance, 6G is meant to deliver a data rate of 1000Gbps with double the spectral efficiency, but how that’s going to happen in an affordable manner is anyone’s guess. Another contradiction is that always-on 6G will be intensely power hungry, but the aim is that it will be half as demanding on battery life.

On the technical side, 5G uses frequencies up to 100GHz and for 6G it seems researchers are thinking about modulating data onto waves in the terahertz range. The benefit is that aside from local scanning solutions, there’s nothing much in the THz range, so there’s loads of space. The downside is that THz signals are so teeny tiny they are interfered with by everything – even humidity gets in their way. THz signals also have very short ranges and are lossy during propagation. There’s talk about vast arrays of miniscule antennas installed very close together, but that sounds horrible to us.

Other things planned for 6G include split channel frequencies and time slots, which could double spectrum efficiency, the implementation of mesh networking, instead of the hub architecture we see with 5G. This latter seems an admission that THz ranges will be short and the network will need to support itself. 6G is also hoping to achieve latency of less than 1ms, to allow near real time virtual communications of video without local processing but no one is sure how.

Additional fantasies include real time holograms, physical to cyber fusion, smart clothing that detects health issues, self-managing industrial facilities, connected robotics and plenty more. Some of the ideas seem awesome, others smack of shark jumping, while a few are just plain scary. If you thought 5G was a cyber security risk, 6G is at another level altogether.

So, do we need to prepare for 6G? No, not yet. Just concentrate on getting the best performance from existing technologies.

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