The march of technology waits for no one, so despite the fact that the blazing fast 5G speeds we’ve been promised are nowhere close to blanketing the entire country, Samsung’s already testing 6G in its labs. The test hardware delivers blistering speeds that promise to...well, we’ll figure that part out later.
A team of researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Samsung Research and Samsung Research America successfully completed another test of a 140GHz transmitter and receiver that was first developed by UCSB Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Mark Rodwell back in 2017. While 5G wireless signals exist in a frequency range up to 40 GHz, 6G would instead occupy the wireless spectrum past 100 GHz, in the terahertz spectrum, allowing for considerable performance improvements.
The 6G hardware, operating at a frequency of 140 GHz and a bandwidth of 2 GHz, successfully transmitted data at 6.2 Gbps—around 775 MB/s—across a distance of about 50 feet. Back in March, Nokia and Turkey’s Turk Telekom set a 5G speed record that reached over 4.5 Gbps using special hardware that consumers will presumably never get their hands on. So even the earliest implementations of 6G already show considerable promise over its predecessor, but its potential is much greater than that.
Operating in the lesser-used terahertz spectrum means that 6G could potentially hit transfer speeds of up to 1 Tbps, or 125 gigabytes of data wirelessly flowing in and out of a mobile device every second. What does that mean for most people? That remains to be seen. Telcoms and service providers have struggled to find ways to convey the virtues of 5G to most consumers who can’t tell the difference between watching an HD Netflix stream on their smartphone’s tiny screen versus a 4K feed. The benefits are more apparent for those living in isolated areas who struggle to get high-speed internet into their homes or businesses. As 5G coverage areas expand, it could easily deliver broadband speed internet access without the need for expensive and expansive infrastructure upgrades.
There will certainly be similarly useful applications for 6G when it eventually rolls out, by then our smartphones might project 8K holograms, or stream complex virtual reality worlds streamed in real-time from a powerful remote server handling all the complex rendering. With a timeline that sees 6G arriving in 2030 at the earliest, however, even bleeding edge early adopters shouldn’t pay much attention to the technology just yet.