The new unit will employ 20 dedicated researchers, working alongside academics, CSPs, and other industry partners to explore the nascent technology

This week, Ericsson has announced its latest investment in the UK, this time taking the form of a new 6G-focussed research unit.

The investment, which will take place over a ten-year period, will employ 20 dedicated researchers, who are set to focus on various 6G-related areas, including network security, AI, energy efficiency, and cognitive networks.

The facility will also support numerous PhD students, as well as a providing a collaborative testing ground for CSPs and other industry partners to jointly research 6G technologies.

The specific amount of funding to be invested in the unit has not been disclosed but is in the “tens of millions of pounds”, according to the company press release.

“Ericsson is at the forefront of global research, innovation and developing open standards that will underpin a future of limitless connectivity and new technologies,” said Magnus Frodigh, VP & Head of Ericsson Research. “Establishing a research program in the UK means the country will be well positioned to utilise its existing high international level of knowledge in wireless systems and technologies to produce ground-breaking 6G research that not only can help shape the future of global standards but also deliver a more connected, efficient and sustainable society.”

The UK government, naturally, has been exuberant about this announcement, calling it a “huge vote of confidence in the UK’s innovative telecoms sector”.

“This pioneering research unit will create new jobs, support students and bring together some of our country’s finest minds to shape the future of telecoms infrastructure in the UK and across the globe,” explained DCMS Secretary of State Michelle Donelan. “Our mission is to lead the world in developing next-generation network tech, and we will soon publish a strategy outlining how we harness 6G to deliver more for people and business.”

With most of the telecoms industry still very much embroiled in the challenge of effectively monetising 5G’s capabilities, it can seem strange that Ericsson is committing so early and so heavily to 6G research. Indeed, the 6G era is unlikely to begin in earnest until 2030 and is currently largely amorphous, with the standardisation process itself still in the early stages of development.

Nonetheless, Ericsson has high hopes for the next generation of mobile connectivity, suggesting that it will “merge the digital and physical world, contribute to a more intelligent, sustainable and efficient society and help deliver new use cases that include multi-sensory extended reality, precision healthcare, smart agriculture, cobots, and intelligent autonomous systems”.

These are some lofty goals and it seems likely that many of these will turn out to be little more than hype, just as similar claims did for 5G. That said, it is never too early to get ahead of the game and Ericsson is far from alone in investing in 6G research, particularly as telecoms continues to take on an increasingly geopolitical element.

In Europe, just last month, the EU’s Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking initiative selected 35 6G-related projects to receive up to €250 million in funding. Similarly, the US, China, and South Korea are all heavily subsidising 6G R&D.

If Ericsson can position themselves as an early leader in 6G technology in Europe, the commercial opportunities could be enormous.

How can the UK become a world leader in 6G? Join the UK telecoms ecosystem in discussion about this and other fascinating topics at the upcoming Connected North conference in Manchester

Also in the news:
Vestager: Restricting “high-risk” vendors a “matter of urgency” for EU
UKRI selects BT consortium for intelligent drone project
IRIS cable set to link Iceland and Ireland