Major carriers lay out R&D roadmap for next-gen tech in partnership with industry pioneers, institutes
Chinese telecom operators are leaving no stone unturned in efforts to establish a beachhead in 6G, the next-generation wireless technology that has turned into a key battleground for innovation and industrial transformation.
The International Telecommunication Union last month approved a 6G vision framework, a foundational document for global 6G work, pressing the start button for renewed research and development across the world.
The newly approved 6G standard now includes six key usage scenarios, compared to only three for the extant 5G technology.
A key feature of 6G is that it will allow the interoperability of terrestrial networks with nonterrestrial technologies such as satellites, ITU said.
China Unicom is working hard to explore key potential technologies for 6G.
The company expects to complete technical research and explore early application scenarios for 6G technology by 2025, said Liu Liehong, chairman of China Unicom.
The commercial launch of 6G in China is expected to begin from 2030, he said.
China Unicom is determined to accelerate the R&D of 6G by tackling key technologies, said Liang Baojun, the telecom operator's deputy general manager.
The cellular network provider will promote close collaboration between the industry, the academic community and research institutes to carry out collaborative innovation in 6G unified network architecture and technologies, Liang said.
This is a crucial time to identify critical 6G technologies, said Gao Tongqing, deputy general manager of China Mobile, adding that the company will work hard to strengthen tech convergence and innovation.
The company last month kicked off its 6G public experimental verification platform, which provides an open and scenario-based joint R&D testing environment for industrial partners, supports the verification of various new business and application scenarios, and lowers the R&D threshold for 6G key technologies.
"6G will be commercially available around 2030 in China, and 3GPP (an international organization on telecom technology development) is expected to start 6G standardization in 2025. As the day is drawing near, 6G R&D has reached a key breakthrough period now," said Huang Yuhong, general manager of the China Mobile Research Institute.
In order to realize 6G commercialization by 2030, the base stations for forming 6G networks should be ready around 2029, Huang said. According to the ITU's 6G vision, the global telecom industry will likely verify 6G innovations in the next 3-4 years.
China started 6G technology R&D in 2019, she said.
Chinese enterprises, universities and scientific institutions have already made breakthroughs in some key 6G technologies, such as new network architecture, integration of communication, AI for network and network for AI, and sensing re-configurable intelligent surfaces. These have laid a strong foundation for 6G exploration, Huang said.
In the past, Chinese companies had worked with international organizations to establish standards for 3G, 4G and 5G technologies, said Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association. They should enhance their partnerships and cooperation with foreign counterparts "to promote the formation of globally unified 6G standards", Xiang said.
China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology Jin Zhuanglong said last month that the country will extensively push for greater R&D in the field of 6G.
China has established the IMT-2030 (6G) Promotion Group, a flagship platform promoting 6G and international cooperation.
As the next-generation mobile communication technology, 6G will integrate with advanced computing, big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain, according to a white paper issued by the group.
The world expects to see commercialization of 6G around 2030, and the 6G network will realize deep integration of the physical and virtual worlds, and build a new one featuring intelligent connections to everything, it said.