If 5G is here, can 6G be far behind?
The rolling out of 5G services has triggered a wave of competition across the world and, more importantly, triggered a race to develop 6G.
An official Chinese research team on 6G was established last month. And developed economies such as the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea and some European countries have started devising research and development plans for 6G, as the telecommunications sector has always been a hotspot for competition.
5G technology aims to create a comprehensive perceptual sensory system in which information and tools can be easily accessed. On the other hand, 6G will help build a perceptual nervous system integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and wireless cognition, which can give intelligent responses.
Compared with 5G technology, 6G will have lower latency, higher speed and more bandwidth. And this advanced technology will help connect the real world with the virtual digital world. It will also make product design, R&D and experiments significantly more efficient and greatly reduce their costs while making it possible to produce digital products in the physical world through high-tech including 3D printing. Which, along with the seamless connection and intelligent coupling of the physical and digital worlds, will lead to a thorough reconstruction of the division of labor and societal cooperation.
In terms of economic development, 3G fostered e-commerce while 4G boosted e-commerce and mobile payment. 5G infrastructure building and application marked the beginning of Chinese enterprises' intelligent manufacturing and provided the basis for the sector's rapid development. Similarly, wireless cognition technology associated with 6G technology, once it matures, will further boost the development of the digital economy.
In digital economy, intelligence based on big data will become the real impetus for innovation, and 6G networks not only will be highways for transmitting data, but will also much more seamlessly integrate edge and core computing as part of a combined communications/computation infrastructure framework. Which will provide many potential advantages as 6G technology becomes operational, including access to AI capabilities.
Digital economy based on 6G will become the determining factor of a country's competitiveness in the future. And 6G technology with wireless cognition as its major characteristic will become the pivotal, core technology and main driver of the digital economy.
6G is expected to support 1 terabyte per second speeds, an unprecedented level of capacity and latency, which will extend the performance of 5G applications aside from expanding the scope of capabilities in support of increasingly new and innovative applications across the realms of wireless cognition, sensing and imaging.
China remained a passive player in the field of advanced technology before 4G services were rolled out, mainly following the United States and European countries and had not set standards for telecom technology. But by developing 4G technology at the same time as the developed economies, China became a big player in the field and contributed to the rule-making process. That China's 4G network is the most advanced and pervasive in the world has also helped the rapid development of mobile payment in the country.
Starting with 5G, the Chinese telecom industry, thanks to its extensive R&D input, has taken the lead in standardizing and manufacturing 5G telecom equipment. And now that the US and European countries lag behind China in 5G technology development, they want to drag China down using non-competitive means such as restricting the development of Chinese companies such as Huawei, and by launching R&D in 6G before China in order to cash in on the advantage they enjoy in the millimeter wave industrial chain.
The competition in 6G will start with the setting of standards, which will determine the level of R&D needed for the launch of the technology and thus decide the market share of the emerging industry. As far as R&D in 5G technology is concerned, China enjoys two advantages. First, it is a global leader in the telecom sector and has a solid reserve of talents. And second, it has a relatively complete industrial chain that covers R&D, design, manufacturing and application, and is home to leading 5G equipment maker Huawei.
Recent history shows whoever leads the telecom technology sector sets the standards for telecom products and services and plays a bigger role in the industry's future development. And since 6G technology will become the engine of a new round of economic development, the Chinese government, enterprises and research organizations should strengthen cooperation to succeed in the competition to develop 6G.
He Ming is a senior engineer at Chengdu Institute of Research and Development of China Mobile. Sun Yunchuan is a professor at International Institute of Big Data in Finance, at Business School of Beijing Normal University.
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.