According to a report, the two Chinese companies have plans to launch a pair of 6G test satellites later this year
While 5G is undoubtedly the major focus for almost all mobile operators and related equipment vendors around the world today – and surely will be for many years to come – numerous companies are nonetheless looking to get a head-start in 6G.
According to a report from the Global Times, Huawei and China Mobile are set to launch a pair of satellites in July this year with the aims of testing burgeoning 6G technologies. In the past, Huawei has said that it would need to launch around 10,000 small satellites to provide 6G services worldwide.
Exactly what these tests may entail remains a mystery, but the use of satellites for 6G seems natural enough. 6G will use higher frequencies even higher than those of mmWave 5G in order to convey data at speeds several times faster than its technological predecessor, going beyond 100 Gbps.
However, terahertz frequencies will struggle to travel long distances or penetrate obstacles, with even water in the Earth’s atmosphere a strong absorber of this type of radiation. As a result, this could limit the range of terrestrial 6G deployments, with satellites suggested as a reasonable alternative, though they too are not without their own challenges.
In fact, this is not the first time China will have seen the launch of satellites related to the future of mobile technology. In November 2020, China launched what it called the first 6G satellite in the world, Tianyan-5, co-developed by Chengdu Guoxing Aerospace Technology, and Beijing Weina Xingkong Technology, aiming to test high-frequency terahertz communications technology.
Of course, what exactly 6G is has yet to be properly defined. In the past year, numerous companies have demonstrated their interest in leading the way with the new technology and the process of defining exactly how it should work. Samsung, for example, has suggested research into the new technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that commercialisation of 6G could come as early as 2028.
Naturally, there is a geopolitical element to this move too. Telecommunications are becoming increasingly politicised in the modern world, becoming a battlefield for tech supremacy and global influence. China has already demonstrated its interest in being a world leader in 6G, as it arguably is in 5G, and other major players on the world stage are doing likewise.
Earlier this year, the European Commission announced that it was setting aside €900 million for 6G research and, just last month, the Next G Alliance, including AT&T, Ericsson, Nokia, and VMware, said they had begin work on a North American roadmap for 6G.
Currently, the industry estimates that 6G will mature around 2030, potentially enabling science-fiction-like experiences such as direct brain–computer interfacing and ‘teleportation of the senses’, making it possible for cyberspace to support human thought and action in real time through wearable devices and micro-devices mounted on the human body.
Who will be the first to make major strides in this embryonic technology remains to be seen.
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