Home / Opinion / Views /  Mint Explainer: The next-gen telecom will be anything but ordinary

Even as India rings in 5G, the world has already begun work on 6G, the exponentially faster sixth generation of wireless technology aimed to offer limitless connectivity. From accurate rain predictions to seamless supervision of welfare schemes to streamlining logistics chains, 6G may turn out to be a game-changer for the Indian economy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to make India one of the early adopters of 6G, though the technology itself is only expected to become a reality by 2030 globally.

What is 6G all about?

Data speeds on 6G are expected to be almost 100 times faster than 5G. While 5G can handle a million connected devices simultaneously per square kilometer, the number surges to 10 million with 6G. With very low latencies and super-fast data, 6G could catalyze an explosion in Artificial Intelligence-enabled applications. By optimizing and simplifying many processes and operations, as well as reducing the need for human participation and supervision, 6G is expected to transform our world. China, US, Japan, South Korea, and some European nations have already begun work on 6G.

6G will blur the boundaries between the real and the digital worlds.
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6G will blur the boundaries between the real and the digital worlds.

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What 6G will offer the world

Network and telecommunications giant Ericsson believes 6G will make it possible for the world to transition to a “cyber-physical continuum", blurring the boundaries between the real and the digital worlds. It says 6G “should not only connect humans and machines but be able to fully merge realities to allow seamless and immersive experiences". That would make it possible to analyse and simulate events and processes, enabling predictions with accuracy and precision. This would be realized by sensors in the physical world sending data for digital representation in real time. “Actuators in the real world (will) carry out commands from intelligent agents in the digital world," says Ericsson.

How 6G will transform our world

6G is expected to find use cases across agriculture, health, education, logistics, urban and rural management, opening numerous possibilities in a developing economy like India. Sensing capabilities, in particular, will be a unique and path-breaking feature of future 6G systems. Sensing is based on an analysis of how radio wave propagation is affected by the environment and will have extensive applications, from identifying weather patterns and rainfall to traffic management. Sensing can be transformative for agriculture in India, perhaps helping predict the course and intensity of monsoon, helping shape crop sowing and harvesting. Advanced weather predictions can help prepare for natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes in some coastal regions of the US.

Limitless connectivity across land, sea and air, from 2D to 3D, and the ability to manage data seamlessly at ultra-high speeds will make 6G a transformative technology. It will be able to connect to a wide range of devices from drones to high-altitude platforms (HAPS) to low-earth orbit satellites. For India, it will be useful in managing, supervising and monitoring various welfare schemes from MNREGA to Ayushman Bharat much better, vastly improving public delivery systems and platforms.

The new technology could also frame 4D images of cities to help in urban planning, automate functions of vehicles and whole metropolises, advance remote healthcare services and ring in brain-computers.

Finding spectrum for 6G

Finding adequate spectrum for 6G may remain a challenge, though. Consumer electronics giant Samsung argues that given the expected explosion in demand, all bands should be made available for 6G, "from low-band under 1 GHz, to mid-band in the 1-24 GHz range and high-band in the 24-300 GHz range". It also suggests refarming of existing bands used for 3G, 4G and 5G networks to 6G as another way to obtain all the spectrum necessary for 6G. Ericsson too believes 6G requires new spectrum considerations given the likely “trillions of embeddable devices … and a host of powerful, sensory use cases".

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