As 5G hits the first year of deployment from the first time initial commercial trials were started in the US by Verizon and AT&T, GSA is reporting that 50 commercial 5G networks have been deployed as China’s big three all activated 5G networks on Nov 1. Since most of the 3GPP 5G are in-process at this point so somewhat determined, several research activities have been announced for 6G.
Earlier this year, NYU Wireless showed demonstrations of a 140 GHz system and is doing several studies with systems in this frequency range. We also saw University of Oulu’s Center for Wireless Communications get €250 million of funding over the next eight years for project 6Genesis: 6G-Enabled Wireless Smart Society & Ecosystem. Their charter is to think outside the box for the wireless vision for 2030. The low latency of 5G, several milliseconds, may not be good enough for 6G and using 100 to 1000 GHz signals will be needed to handle data rates up to terabit/s speeds so they will explore how these goals might be possible.
In May, Tektronix/IEMN and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) both announced development of 100 Gbps “wireless fiber” solutions. Each took a different route, with Tektronix and IEMN (a French research laboratory) demonstrating a single carrier wireless link with a 100 Gbps data rate signal at 252 to 325 GHz per the recently published IEEE 802.15.3d standard, while NTT used a new principle, Orbital Angular Momentum (OAM) multiplexing at 28 GHz with MIMO technology.
In August, we saw Keysight Technologies announce that the company has joined the multi-party 6G Flagship Program – supported by the Academy of Finland and led by the University of Oulu, Finland – as a co-creator to advance wireless communications research beyond 5G.
At MWC Los Angeles in Oct, DARPA’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2) held its final elimination rounds of that challenged teams to develop algorithms for wireless systems that can autonomously collaborate and work with each other to share the RF Spectrum. DARPA designed various scenarios of real-world situations to test the teams collaborate radio designs. The challenges were done on the world’s largest RF channel emulator called the Colosseum consisting of 256 software defined radios. SC2’s final 10 competitors and their AI-enabled radios went head-to-head during six rounds of competitive play with team GatorWings coming out victorious. It is hoped that this research will lead to wireless systems that can provide better efficiency of RF spectrum as some of the competitions showed about a 300% increase in spectrum utilization over what can be attained today and could be part of 5G or 6G technology.
And in the past couple of weeks Sony, NTT and Intel announced the companies will form a partnership to work on 6G mobile network technology, which is expected to be introduced around 2030. The trio wants to establish an organization for the 6G in the U.S. by next spring and intend to invite other major global companies to participate, including players from China focusing on developing new semiconductor technologies. Around the same time, Rohde & Schwarz and 2 groups at Fraunhofer announced they are collaborating on wireless systems operating between 270 and 320 GHz, with further frequency extensions for potential 6G bands. R&S demonstrated a 300 GHz setup at EuMW 2019 in Paris.
We are now seeing commercial groups forming to start work on projects that will lead to 6G technologies and beyond. Over the past few years, it seems like the pace of wireless develop has increased significantly and time between each generation of mobile communications is shortening.