When is 6G coming to India, and what will it bring?

Several countries — including India — are working on the technology, and it promises to overhaul how machines run

The rollout of 5G on a commercial scale is expected to help India in fields such as healthcare, education, research and robotics, apart from hastening telecom sector reform. (Representational image)

While the law takes its time and the dust is yet to settle on the 2G scam, technology goes on at breakneck speed. Union Communication Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said at a recent media event that India is working to develop indigenous 6G technology, and the plans is to roll it out by 2023-24. Scientists and engineers have been given permissions to develop the technology, he added.

This piques interest, as India is yet to hold auctions for 5G spectrum, leave alone introduce it on a commercial scale, for public use.

The rollout of 5G on a commercial scale is expected to help the nation on several counts such as healthcare, education, research and robotics, apart from hastening telecom sector reform. So, what does 6G entail and what is it likely to usher into the country?

6G and devices

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The technology is still on drawing boards — or their digital equivalents — and neither governments nor private stakeholders are fully certain about what 6G will require in terms of physical infrastructure.

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This means, there’s little clarity on how exactly devices will need to be reconfigured to suit the new technology. For instance, 6G is likely to allow object tracking with highly accurate sensors, and enable more accurate visual and voice recognition.

The existing mobile phones, and the ones that evolve from them in the coming years, may not be adequate to host the cutting edge features that 6G would offer, say some experts. This could lead to a complete overhaul of how mobiles are made and used.

The dazzling technology of 6G

As the name clearly implies, sixth-generation (6G) wireless technology is the successor to 5G. It uses higher frequencies than 5G, bringing with it substantially lower latency and higher capacity. It is said to support 1 microsecond-latency communication, which roughly translates to communication and data transfer speeds several hundred times greater than what’s available at present.

Telecom experts say 6G is likely to support tremendous data rates — about 1 terabyte per second. It is expected to enable vast improvements in functionalities such as touch control, imaging and location awareness, particularly when deployed along with artificial intelligence (AI).

Data analytics is set to be a big gainer, as 6G will enable faster sampling rates. Additionally, administrative bodies are likely to benefit from 6G. They can, for instance, deploy it for threat detection, drones, health monitoring, feature and facial recognition, and air quality measurements, to name just a few. The technology will also come in handy in the implementation of futuristic projects such as smart cities and autonomous vehicles.

Multiple global efforts

While most countries are working on the 6G technology, a commercial launch is not expected before 2030. China has already launched a 6G test satellite. Huawei Technologies and China Global are also said to have scheduled 6G satellite launches.

Samsung, which is big on 6G, sees the technology as holding promise for user cases such as holograms. The Korean conglomerate has stated that it sees a 6G rollout happening as early as 2028.

The 6G Flagship project of Europe, which is looking to combine research on the technology, is centred around Finland’s University of Oolu at present. Vodafone Germany is establishing a 6G research facility in Dresden.

In the US, telecom majors AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are part of an industry initiative with ATIS, called the Next G Alliance. The aim is to organise 6G research throughout North America.

A step further, to 7G technology

While 6G is still a decade away for commercial use, telecom scientists have already started developing 7G technology. The US-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), through its Extremely High Throughput working group, is said to be working on specifications for 7G along with the Wi-Fi Alliance.

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