It was recently reported that a Japanese company has developed a chip based on “sixth-generation” (6G) technology, which is 40 times faster than 5G technology. The news has attracted widespread attention.
It was reported that the indium phosphide (InP) compound semiconductor chip has performed high-speed wireless transmission experiments within the 300 MHz band, reaching a peak speed of 100 Gbps. Such a chip marks another important step in the development of communications technology. Various media have named the chip the “6G chip”. Some believe it to be a major breakthrough for Japan’s 6G development, surpassing China’s 5G. But it is too early to make such a claim. We should first formulate a clear and scientific understanding of 6G technology.
What is 6G? It’s not yet defined. Countries are just now putting forward their white papers, outlining their ideas of what 6G should look like. These ideas need to be exchanged and improved upon in the global communications industry. On this basis, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) should hold relevant meetings to propose a vision for 6G and this vision should be in line with the three major application scenarios of 5G. 6G development should also involve the analysis of potential scenarios and indicators.
Based on a conclusive vision, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) will promote the establishment of a 6G standard. Relevant companies in different countries will propose projects, followed by the development of a relevant standard. In the process of perfecting this standard, telecommunications companies globally will develop standard-compliant products, and conduct indoor and outdoor experiments. Finally, networks will be established to provide 6G services for society.
Global 6G development is still in its earliest, vision-forming stage. Therefore, no existing technology can be internationally recognised and it is not definite whether or not any existing technology will become a 6G technology. The Japanese invention is a terahertz chip. Although terahertz has been brought up by many experts during discussions of a 6G vision, it has not been designated as a 6G technology.
During talks concerning the 5G standard, it was widely believed that millimetre-wave technology was necessary to support a higher bandwidth. Some countries had planned for 5G millimetre-wave frequencies and many companies globally have begun the development of such technology. However, because of technical difficulties, current 5G is largely sub-6 – the band below 6 GHz. To facilitate the widespread adoption of millimetre waves, more technical problems first need to be solved.
6G is the generation of technology after 5G. In addition to the development of communications chips, another complex issue is the design of antennas that can be installed in terminals and base stations to support the terahertz frequency band. Japan’s communications chip which supports the terahertz band is very valuable, but it is still a stretch to claim it as 6G technology.
Today, China’s 5G is at the forefront in various areas including chips, communications systems, terminals and applications – and the pace of the country’s 6G technology development is accelerating.
From the Ministry of Science and Technology to research institutions, many have already begun related work. Chinese telecommunications companies such as Huawei and ZTE are also developing relevant technologies. Many cutting-edge technologies, including terahertz technology, are research subjects at many universities.
But as the world has yet to even define its vision of 6G, it should adopt a scientific attitude and not rush to declare any technology as a “6G technology”.
Communications technologies are promoted by all mankind and, no matter which country makes a breakthrough, it is gratifying. With its accumulation of 4G and 5G development, it is believed that China will remain at the forefront when it comes to 6G.
The author is director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance. GLOBAL TIMES