Samsung research tackles 6G, says use of THz ‘inevitable’

5G commercialization is still in the early stages, but it’s not too early to start thinking about what 6G will bring. It typically takes about 10 years from the start of research to commercialization of a new generation of wireless technology, notes Samsung, which released a new 6G white paper on Tuesday.

The company says its vision for 6G includes bringing the next hyper-connected experience to every corner of life. To speed research for 6G, Samsung Research founded its Advanced Communications Research Center in May of last year.

“We’ve already launched the research and development of 6G technologies by building upon the experience and ability we have accumulated from working on multiple generations of communications technology, including 5G,” said Sunghyun Choi, head of the Advanced Communications Research Center, in a press release. “Going forward, we are committed to leading the standardization of 6G in collaboration with various stakeholders across industry, academia and government fields.”

While the industry overall is just getting started in 5G, academics and others are studying what needs to happen in 6G. It was a keynote topic at last year’s Brooklyn 5G Summit, where Nokia Bell Labs President Marcus Weldon suggested that if people are skittish about using the phrase 6G, they can talk about it by framing it in terms of “Beyond 5G.”

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For 6G, Samsung expects the ITU-R will begin work to define a 6G vision in 2021. Taking into account the tendency for technical standards development to accelerate for each new generation, Samsung expects the 6G standard could be completed and commercialized as early as 2028, with mass commercialization occurring around 2030.

To realize advanced multimedia services such as truly immersive extended reality (XR), mobile holograms and digital replicas, 6G needs to provide a much higher data rate than 5G, which was designed to achieve 20 Gbps peak data rate. In 6G, they’re looking to provide the peak data rate of 1,000 Gbps.  

The white paper says that with the help of advanced sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and communication technologies, it will be possible to replicate physical entities, including people, devices, objects and places in a virtual world. The digital replica of a physical entity is called a digital twin, and in a 6G environment, users will be able use digital twins to explore and monitor the reality in a virtual world, without temporal or spatial constraints.

Terahertz bands 'inevitable'

To satisfy the requirements for 6G, the industry may turn to the terahertz (THz) frequencies, new antenna technologies to enhance the coverage of high frequency band signals, advanced duplex technologies, spectrum sharing and AI.

The paper says it’s inspiring that in March 2019, the FCC opened the spectrum between 95 GHz and 3,000 GHz for experimental use and unlicensed applications to encourage the development of new technologies. Discussions on use cases and deployment scenarios for 5G new radio (NR) systems operating at bands beyond 52.6 GHz have begun, and following this trend, “it is inevitable” that mobile communications will use THz bands (i.e., 0.1-10 THz]) in future systems.

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To cope with the difficult propagation characteristics of the THz bands, it may be natural to enhance the massive MIMO technology that was introduced to support millimeter wave (mmWave) bands in 5G. But the paper notes that since the THz band requires much more antennas than the mmWave band, there may be significantly more practical difficulties.