Japanese operators NTT DoCoMo and NTT have started 6G trials with equipment manufacturers Fujitsu, NEC, and Nokia with the hope that the first commercial services will be available by 2030.
Although most operators are still scratching the surface when it comes to 5G, the mobile industry’s attention has already turned to the next generation of networks.
It’s still too early to predict the final form the 6G standard will take and which technologies will be included, there are some plausible assumptions about its capabilities and the challenges that operators, manufacturers, and researchers face.
NTT says it expects 6G to deliver huge advances in speed, capacity, and low latency thanks to the use of sub-terahertz (THz) spectrum, which will expand the reach of mobile communications to the sea and the sky.
The initial focus of its work with the equipment vendors will be on how to maximise the potential of this spectrum, and how AI-based wireless transmission methods can deliver the performance reliability required.
“6G studies are progressing two or three years ahead of that of 5G,” said Naoki Tan. “From this early stage, we would like to collaborate with world-leading global vendors to proactively demonstrate breakthrough concepts and technologies and promote them to the world.”
Indoor trials will begin before the end of March 2023 and the findings will be shared with global research groups, conferences, and standardisation bodies.
If the most ambitious targets are met, then 6G will deliver 100 times the capacity of 5G and will be able to support 10 million devices per square kilometre.
Signals would extend 10,000 metres above the surface, enabling ‘3D coverage’ in the skies, space and underwater. All these capabilities would allow for intelligent sensing, positioning, edge computing, and high-definition imaging.
The development and deployment of 6G is viewed as a “trillion dollar opportunity” for the mobile industry, while technical leadership is increasingly a political priority for many governments around the world.
Research efforts are well under way in Europe, China, Japan and in North America in a bid to become a leader not just in the development of 5G applications and services, but also the technologies that will comprise global standards.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.