Race towards 6G explored in new research

According to the IDTechEx report, “6G Communications Market, Devices, Materials 2021-2041”, several billion dollars have been put on the table for 6G communication so far, with companies across Europe, North America, and East Asia in the race.

Among the findings was analysis of patents, application, technology, and operating principles with forecasts, as well as the companies that are set to lead the emerging market.

Corporations based in East Asia and China were found to be participating and collaborating in development consortiums, an example being a working group consisting of Qualcomm, Apple, Google, and LG.

A satellite has been deployed by China exclusively for 6G research, in line with a government policy of leapfrogging other nations in the adoption of new technology, by creating large new vendors, according to the research.

Patents

In terms of patents filed for 6G capabilities, around one-hundredth of the patents have been applied for on 6G vs 5G, with China-based Huawei in the lead.

Sensors were found to be particularly prioritised, with sensor patents worldwide being dominated by Japan, South Korea and Germany.

However, IDTechEx analysts believe that this reflects China’s preference for patent systems, rather than components.

In 5G, Samsung has more than ten times the patents than the next ten patentors combined, according to IDTechEx’s findings.

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6G in Europe

In Europe, meanwhile, Ericsson was revealed to be strongly patenting 6G, while Robert Bosch is placing emphasis on patent sensors generally.

European Union 6G research funding, meanwhile, is now managed from Finland as part of an attempted comeback with 6G systems.

In mid-2021, the 5G Infrastructure Association published a “European Vision for the 6G Network Ecosystem”, and Europe as a whole was found to be ahead in practicing cross-border collaboration on future technology.

Additionally, a new virtual hub, named 6G Futures, is set to be launched in the UK, uniting over 400 experts in telecoms networks, cyber, AI, digital humanities, social sciences and arts, from the University of Bristol and King’s College London.

However, analysts warn of the danger that European users will be under-protected in the next wave of these technologies — while the continent is home to large telecommunications operators, major hardware providers in the space are currently few and far between.

Standards and RIS

While the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) could decide the standard frequency of 6G communication, no formal work has yet begun in this area.

Taking 5G as a model, many other bodies are expected to participate in around eight years of 6G standards writing.

Meanwhile, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in Europe, which produces globally applicable standards for ICT, has launched a new Industry Specification Group on Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RIS).

Vast areas of RIS would need to be deployed on buildings, indoor walls, and other indoor areas for 6G to work, due to infrastructure being prone to malfunction at the higher frequencies essential for vastly optimal data transfer and response.

“Enabling 6G will be metamaterials in many forms – passive, semi-active and active RIS, static sun-tracking photovoltaics, cooling of photovoltaics and thermoelectrics by just an overlayer, best base-station beam-steering antennas without moving parts,” said Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx.

“Semiconductor devices working at unprecedently high frequencies are needed in many forms. From published literature, China is not in the lead here.

“Application of artificial intelligence, edge computing, and new software is being pursued worldwide so robustly that there is a concern that the hardware is not keeping up. Bottom line? No one is winning in 6G. It is all to play for.”

More information on the 6G research conducted by IDTechEx can be found here.