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5G wireless is already teaching us what we'll want from 6G

5G networks have often been a lesson in being underwhelmed. Now what?

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Most of us are still getting our heads wrapped around 5G, but some major tech players are well into the development of 6G. Qualcomm, a huge force in wireless technology, is one of them, and CNET news chief Roger Cheng recently talked to executives and engineers there about the next generation of wireless. Apple, Google and LG are also members of a 6G working group

Roger Cheng, CNET

Roger Cheng is Executive Editor and head of news at CNET.

CNET

In broad strokes, 6G is envisioned as truly subsuming wireless connectivity into everything around us with network coverage and bandwidth availability so effortless we cease to worry about them. That's a herculean task that 5G may only start accomplishing. "All the different sensors that we expect [to be connected] with 5G will be a lot more with 6G, and everything will be talking to each other in an effort to make your life easier," says Cheng. 

That suggests 6G will need to scale both up and down, from connections that need huge bandwidth like home ISP service to devices that need only a small amount to report pressure or temperature, like a piece of future smart clothing.

Another area where 6G may take a handoff from 5G is coverage. 5G can offer good bandwidth to a large area or amazing bandwidth to a small area, but in between is something of a technical and economic null zone. "If you've got a fatter pipe, how do you get the range much wider? That's when things start to get really interesting," says Cheng. One of 6G's clear mandates would be to overlap coverage and bandwidth without tradeoffs.

6G roadmap

Generally a decade passes between major generations of mobile wireless technology. That could mean 6G enters US trials by 2027.

Qualcomm

Cheng reminds that "this is all still sort of theoretical. Anyone who's telling you this is what 6G will actually look like is selling you something you shouldn't be buying." It still makes for a fascinating future to ponder, and you can do so with the video of Roger's full conversation with me.


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Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.