Exclusives : The countries fighting for 6G leadership and what they plan for 2030

The countries fighting for 6G leadership and what they plan for 2030

In the race to be the first to realise the 6G ecosystem, six countries or regions emerge as favourites to kick off the new network in the next decade.

The United States, China, South Korea, Japan, Finland, and Europe are at the forefront of developing innovation and establishing plans for the next decade.

Not all of them are in the same stage, though.

Finland was the first to launch a 6G program. Led by the University of Oulu, the 6G Flagship received € 251 million (US$ 300 million) in investments, part of it from the Finnish government.

Then, China announced the beginning of its research group on 6G in November 2019. Japan and South Korea followed and also made public their desire to be protagonists in this field.

South Korea has aggressive goals

It is not a surprise that the first country to roll out 5G is now planning to be the first to deploy 6G.

In a meeting in August 2020, Chung Sye-Kyun, the Korean prime minister, announced that the country will invest 200 billion won (US$ 170 million) until 2026 in research and development of the 6G network. The government wants the technology ready for deployment by 2028, two years ahead of the consensus timeframe for 6G.

“In addition, we will create a strong research base for industrial growth through the development of prototypes that can be utilised for localisation of 6G core components and equipment, support for voucher-style R&D of promising small and medium-sized enterprises, and the cultivation of 6G top-quality human resources,” Sye-Kyun said during the meeting.

According to a presentation made by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), “[there is a] need to fully prepare for 6G, securing future competitiveness and responding to technological hegemony,” the document says. It also recommends greater participation in international standardisation bodies, mainly the ITU, and sets goals to make it possible for Korea to become an end-to-end 6G leader.

Japan also getting started

Like its neighbour, Japan also started research on a Beyond 5G roadmap, and the Ministry of International Affairs and Communications published an initial strategy in June 2020 to address the technology.

The document specifies measures to ensure the early development of B5G and 6G in the country and sets milestones for deployment.

They must be taken throughout three phases:

  • Research and Development: promote R&D for cutting-edge core technologies, ease spectrum regulation for R&D, tax incentives for R&D and strengthen manufacturing bases
  • Standardization: Encourage standardisation activities, collaborate with strategic partners and develop a mechanism for strategic activities on IP and standardisation
  • Deployment: Deploy 5G and fibre-optic network, realise continuous cybersecurity functionality and establish use cases for solving challenges

According to the document, the government expects US$ 400 billion of value added to Japan’s economy over ten years. “The first five years [of the project] are critical, as such promoting intensive efforts and utilising Japan’s strengths in the Advanced Implementation Phase [2020 to 2025] must be done with a sense of urgency,” the study recommends. The middle term goal is to present Japan’s progress during the Osaka-Kansai Expo in 2025.

First steps towards the Terahertz band and 6G in the U.S.

So far, the U.S. government has not set an official program. However, the industry has taken the most significant steps towards the next generation of networks in the country.

In October 2020, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) announced the launch of the Next G Alliance, an initiative led by North American companies whose goal is to set a roadmap to 6G and work close to the administration to enable market readiness.

“We hope to lay a foundation for a very vibrant marketplace for products and services globally. There are definitely other objectives to the Next G Alliance, but it will be one piece of establishing North American leadership whereby we will really want the government to understand what industry’s technology priorities are for 6G and beyond,” said Susan Miller, president and CEO of ATIS, in an exclusive interview with 6GWorld.

But that is not the only action taken in the U.S. to develop the sector. In March 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it would open spectrum above 95 GHz – 6G is expected to operate on the Terahertz band – to experimental licenses, making the United States the first country to do so. Companies and universities using this share of the spectrum will have up to ten years to conduct experiments, according to the FCC. The commission also made 21.2 gigahertz of spectrum available for use by unlicensed devices.

One year later, amid a trade war with China, the Congress approved the “Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020,” which demands from the president the development of a “strategy to ensure security of next-generation wireless communications systems and infrastructure.”

The strategy published by the White House contains undetailed actions that have been or will be taken by the U.S. government to secure 5G and beyond:

  • A description of efforts to facilitate 5G and future generations wireless communications rollout
  • A description of efforts to assess the risks to and identify core security principles of 5G and future generations infrastructure
  • A description of efforts to address risks to the national security of the United States during the development and deployment of 5G and future generations wireless communications infrastructure worldwide
  • A description of efforts to promote responsible global development and deployment of 5G and future generations wireless communications

What China has in store

Not many details so far, but what we know is that China announced, in November 2019, the country would establish “a national 6G technology research and development promotion working group and an overall expert group,” according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

“The overall expert group from universities, research institutes, and enterprises a total of 37 experts, mainly responsible for 6G technical research layout recommendations and technical demonstration, for major decision-making advice and recommendations,” the Ministry said in a statement.

Although the government’s detailed plan keeps unknown, Chinese companies are already digging into 6G. Huawei, for example, set a research operation devoted to the next generation of wireless in Ottawa, Canada, in 2019. ZTE and China Unicom, a local operator, signed an agreement this year to cooperate in 6G-related technology and standardisation.

Finland and the first research group on 6G in the world

Finland is known as an innovation hub, and it is easy to understand why. Companies like Nokia, Sampo, and Nest were born in the country, and the government has even created a specific visa for international startups to grow in Finland.
Also, the world’s first 6G coordinated initiative was launched there in 2018. The 6G Flagship is led by the University of Oulu and is formed by members from universities to private companies across the world.

The program has a budget of € 251 million (US$ 300 million) for the 2018 to 2026 period, and part of it comes from the government.

Even though the 6G Flagship is not a comprehensive deployment program, it will initially focus on research in four areas: wireless connectivity, devices and circuit technology, distributed computing, and applications and services.

New European program on the horizon

In December, the European Union will testify the end of Horizon 2020, its 76-billion euros program devoted to research on technology in Europe.

But the continent is set to launch a successor: Horizon Europe, which should run from 2021 to 2027 and serve as a supporter for innovation while enabling countries to compete in the global market.

The program will not focus on 6G specifically, but it will take advantage of the network’s possibilities to develop solutions in areas like health, smart cities, agriculture, and the environment.

However, Horizon Europe is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic side effects: the once proposed € 100 billion budget has been suffering cuts amid the financial crisis and can ending up around € 80 billion.




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