Commercialization of 6G may kick off in 2030, but challenges remain, says DIGITIMES Research

Ashely Huang, DIGITIMES Research, Taipei 0


Since the timeframe for the evolution of communication technology has greatly shortened, 6G is now expected to be commercialized as soon as 2030. Compared to 5G, the next-generation technology needs to have superior performances in all manner of network transmission parameters and needs to consume less power to improve its energy consumption efficiency, both major challenges, according to DIGITIMES Research's latest study on telecom network technologies.

The key characteristics of 6G are the integration of the non-terrestrial networks (NTN), the adoption of sub-terahertz (THz) frequencies, and free space optical (FSO) satellite communication in a bid to fulfill the needs of full self-driving technologies and IoT applications in rural areas, key challenges for 6G's development.

The power consumption of 6G is most likely to be far higher than its predecessors due to the increased adoption of massive MIMO and the rising number of supported spectrums, both can dramatically increase the usage of electricity compared to technologies before.

Among the heavy power-consumption components, power amplifiers currently drain the most electricity with most telecom operators pushing to reduce their power consumption while idling or during non-peak periods. Some moves include shutting off some of the antennas of MIMO when in low workload or adopting a modulation technology that runs by AI or machine learning system. The technology can switch power amplifiers' running model from orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) to the single carrier model during low workload, DIGITIMES Research's study shows.

In addition, because of a lack of spectrum resources, adopting THz with a higher frequency is necessary to satisfy 6G's demand for large bandwidth. However, THz shares the same disadvantage as mmWave and has an even smaller coverage than mmWave. It also features higher power consumption and the characteristic that its transmission quality is easily influenced by bad weather such as rain or fog.

Some developers are currently working on replacing antenna and RF components with materials such as InP or SiGe or designing new DSPs to reduce transmission losses.

NTN, which supports 5G NR and runs on FR1 frequency band, is able to connect to handheld devices and also supports IoT devices that are powered with NB-IoT and eMTC standards. Cellular network, which faced difficulties to expand because of a lack of sufficient infrastructure, is expected to be able to connect to end devices on sea or in rural areas with the help of NTN.