As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, our reliance on mobile networks and the internet continues to grow. The evolution of telecommunications has been rapid, with each new generation bringing improvements in speed, latency, and connectivity. While 5G is just beginning to reshape how we connect and communicate, it’s never too early for forward-thinking telcos to explore the possibilities of 6G. Some research  predicts 6G to be deployed by 2030. However, the adoption and monetisation of 5G have been low, which could ultimately delay 6G further than what’s currently expected. Nevertheless, in this blog post, we’ll delve into what is possible with 6G and why staying ahead in this game is crucial for telcos aiming for long-term relevance and innovation.
Beyond Faster Speeds: What 6G Offers
Before diving into the specifics of 6G, let’s set the stage by highlighting the key promises and potential advantages it brings:
- Unprecedented Speeds: 6G is expected to deliver speeds beyond our current comprehension. While 5G offers gigabit-per-second speeds, 6G could provide terabit-per-second connectivity. This quantum leap in speed will revolutionise not only how we download content but also enable real-time, data-intensive applications like augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and holographic communications.
- Ultra-Low Latency: 6G will bring ultra-low latency, potentially reducing it to one millisecond or less. This is a game-changer for applications requiring split-second responses, such as autonomous vehicles and remote robotic surgery. It will open up new possibilities for industries, making previously unattainable applications feasible.
- Massive Device Density: 6G is envisioned to support a colossal number of devices per square kilometer. This is a crucial aspect for the Internet of Things (IoT) as it will facilitate seamless connections for smart cities, smart homes, and industrial automation, creating a truly interconnected world.
- Energy Efficiency: With increased efficiency in energy consumption, 6G can potentially extend the battery life of devices. This, too, is particularly significant for IoT devices, sensors, and wearables, which often have limited power sources.
- AI Integration: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will play a central role in 6G networks. The integration of AI can optimise network performance, enhance security, and enable advanced applications like predictive maintenance and personalised services.
Now, let’s delve into what these promises mean for the future of telecommunications.
Transforming Industries With 6G
- Healthcare: 6 G’s ultra-low latency and reliability make it ideal for remote surgery and telemedicine. Surgeons could perform intricate procedures on patients located thousands of miles away with near-zero latency.
- Transportation: Autonomous vehicles require split-second decision-making, and 6 G’s low latency can make self-driving cars safer and more efficient. It can also enable precise vehicle-to-vehicle communication to prevent accidents.
- Education: Immersive augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences will be more accessible with 6G, revolutionising remote learning and training programs. Honeywell, an aerospace and engineering conglomerate, already leverages augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for enhanced training. New employees are provided with mixed-reality headsets that allow them to observe and mimic the tasks of experienced colleagues. The technology overlays informative guidance, facilitating an immersive and interactive learning experience. 
- Entertainment: Streaming high-definition 3D holograms or interactive experiences will be seamless, making 6G the choice for immersive entertainment applications. Manufacturing: 6 G’s connectivity will allow for real-time monitoring and control of industrial processes, leading to increased efficiency and automation.
Preparing for 6G: Why it Matters
- Competitive Advantage: Telecom companies that stay ahead of the curve and invest in 6G research and development will have a significant competitive advantage. Being the first to offer 6G services can attract new customers and retain existing ones.
- Market Leadership: In the telecommunications industry, being a market leader means influencing standards and shaping the future. Early involvement in 6G can position a telco as an industry thought leader.
- Monetisation Opportunities: New capabilities offered by 6G can open up entirely new revenue streams. Telecom companies can explore partnerships with various industries to develop custom 6G solutions.
- Global Connectivity: 6G can bridge the digital divide by providing high-speed, low-latency connectivity to underserved regions. Telcos that contribute to international connectivity efforts may benefit from government incentives and support.
- Technological Resilience: Preparing for 6G ensures that a telco’s infrastructure and workforce remain at the forefront of technological advancements, making it more resilient to market disruptions.
Research and Development in 6G
According to an article posted in Thales Group , in June 2023, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R) marked a significant milestone by introducing the Draft IMT-2030 (6G) Framework Recommendation, outlining key usage scenarios and the path to international standardisation and commercialisation of 6G. The next critical event is said to be the World Radio Communication Conference in November 2023, which will establish spectrum foundations for 6G. Technical specifications discussions are expected to commence in 2025, leading to the first 6G specification in 3GPP Release 21 by 2028, with commercial deployments projected to begin around 2030. Preparing for 6G isn’t just about waiting for the technology to arrive—it involves active research and development efforts. Here’s how forward-thinking telcos can start:
- Collaborate with Research Institutions: Partner with universities and research institutions to conduct 6G research. Establishing joint projects can yield valuable insights and innovations.
- Invest in Spectrum Exploration: Begin exploring the potential of higher-frequency spectrum, including terahertz bands, for 6G applications. Understand the regulatory and technical challenges associated with these frequencies.
- Develop Use Cases: Identify industry-specific use cases that can benefit from 6 G’s capabilities. Explore pilot projects and proofs of concept to demonstrate the value of 6G to potential partners and customers.
- Standardisation Involvement: Engage with standardisation bodies and industry consortia that are shaping the future of 6G. Active participation can influence standards and ensure compatibility with global networks.
- Talent Acquisition and Training: Attract and train talent with expertise in 6G technologies. Ensure that your workforce is equipped with the skills needed to design, deploy, and maintain 6G networks.
While 5G is still making its way into mainstream use, it’s evident that the telecommunications industry is already gearing up for 6G. The possibilities that 6G brings are nothing short of transformative, with speeds, latency, and capabilities that will reshape industries and everyday life. For forward-thinking telcos, paying attention to 6G is not an option but a necessity. It’s about staying relevant in a rapidly evolving landscape, exploring new revenue streams, and contributing to the digital transformation of various sectors. By investing in research and development, collaborating with technology partners, and actively shaping standards and regulations, telcos can position themselves as leaders in the 6G era.
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