The US May Not Be Ready for 6G, Experts Say

But ultrafast networks could power new tech

Key Takeaways

  • A new report says that the US needs to do more to encourage the next generation 6G mobile network. 
  • 6G is expected to deliver speeds 1,000 times faster than 5G, the current standard. 
  • The advent of 6G will make it possible to develop advanced technologies like fully automated driverless cars and remote surgeries, experts say.
A 6G concept image with 6G illuminated in blue and silhouettes of people standing around it, waiting..

Zhihong Zhuo / Getty Images

Next-generation 6G wireless promises to transform the mobile experience, but some experts say the US isn't doing enough to get the technology off the ground. 

The US  is falling behind other countries when it comes to encouraging the next generation of communication technologies, according to a new study by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). 6G is expected to deliver speeds 1,000 times faster than 5G, the current standard. 

"While the USA has an edge in hyper-scale cloud computing, its telecommunications industry has lagged due to a high level of concentration in the sector, Ashish Jain, the co-founder of PrivateLTEand5G.com, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

Slow Start for Faster Speeds

Last year, the Biden administration committed to spending $2.5 billion on 6G, but the CNAS report claims more needs to be done. The report says the government create a long-term strategy for 6G and expand research-and-development funding. 

"6G technologies will bring more than just improved data transmission speeds,” said the CNAS report. “Communications technology forms the conduit of societies, implicating future economic competitiveness, military strength and geopolitical influence.”

The geopolitical race for the next big thing in telecommunications technology, 6G, is already heating up, especially between the US and China, and Korea, Bernard Ku, the head of the Telecom Technology Group at the technology consulting group Lumenci told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"For the US government, the scrum for 6G is already intensifying and the exploration in future defense use becomes an arms race to some extent,” he said. “The US must seek dominance in 6G to maintain global power on land, under the sea, or even in space. It will require an army of researchers working on it to remain competitive.” 

For companies, the stakes could not be higher, Ku said. “The first to develop and patent 6G will be the biggest winners in what some call the next Industrial Revolution,” he added. “It will not only affect the smartphone and computer world but will also have an impact on considerably more industrial verticals, including automotive, home appliances, manufacturing, energy, and healthcare.”

6G Could Power New Tech

5G speeds are a foretaste of advanced applications such as X-Reality, machine-to-machine communications, digital twins, and 3D video communications, Jain said. But these technologies will need the faster speeds afforded by 6G, he added.  5G’s throughput rate peaks at 20 gigabits per second, while 6G will scale to 1000 gigabytes per second.

“Performance of this order of magnitude is not achievable on single-user devices such as especially smartphones,” Jain said. “The processing will be distributed over multiple devices in a pervasive software-defined network.”

Two robotic arms in a lab being controlled by someone using a tablet.

Viaframe / Getty Images

Most countries haven’t yet experienced a 6G network, but estimates suggest that half of the worldwide data traffic of the next five years will no longer result from people’s usage, Ku said. Instead, data will be used by vehicles, machines, meters, sensors, medical instruments, or various other types of networked devices without any human interaction. 

“With ultrafast terahertz speeds and minimal response time, 6G will make it possible to develop advanced technologies like fully automated driverless cars and remote surgeries that will eventually benefit everyone,” he added. 

One reason 6G is so anticipated lies in the fact that it could finally make the Internet of Things (IoT) with smartphones and smart home devices a practical everyday reality, Ku said. Researchers predict that 6G will place an emphasis on extremely high bandwidth and reliability.

“If 5G makes IoT possible, 6G will bring optimum use of IoT,” Ku said. “The 6G Internet will be instantly and continuously accessible, woven for many of us into the tapestry of everyday life.”

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