6G competition heating up

Annie Huang, Taipei; Rodney Chan, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

Commercialization of 6G technology may not arrive until 2023, but China, the US, the EU, Japan, and Korea have already stepped up development of chip applications supporting the next-generation communication.

As a leader in the 5G market, China is keen to continue its leadership in the 6G era.

Over the past few years, the US government has clamped down on Huawei, blocking its technology from the communication market as much as possible. The US-China tech war is expected to extend into the 6G era. The US is teaming up with its allies in a bid to accelerate the development of their own 6G tech on the one hand, and slow China's progress in next-generation communication on the other. But according to one survey, China remains strong in 6G tech development.

A survey published by Nikkei Asia in September 2021 showed that China accounted for 40% of 6G patent applications.

Currently, 7nm manufacturing is favored by vendors for their chip offerings. Qualcomm's 865+, HiSilicon's Kirin 990 5G and MediaTek's Dimensity 1000+ are all made using 7nm processes.

Chips in the 6G era will be more demanding in terms of manufacturing. For 5G chips, the FinFET process will continue to play a major role at the 5nm node, but GAA will take over starting from 3nm. The 6G era will start with 1.5nm GAA process.

Jin Zhuanglong, minister of China's Industry and Information Technology, has recently disclosed the Chinese government is extending support for a 6G research platform, IMT-2030, formed by industrial and academic groups. It serves as a platform coordinating the 6G development work among the industries, research institutions, and infrastructure developers.

In terms of technological development, Huawei already unveiled its first mmWave AI sensor in 2022. At MWC 2023, ZTE showcased its dynamic-RIS (reconfigurable intelligence surface) solution.

Canon, Harvard University, and NASA are all developing technologies for the THz band. in China, a research body under the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation developed a 850GHz chip in 2021. Other private companies in China, such as Kingsignal Technology, are also developing related technologies.