“Beware the Ides of March” is verbiage that comes from the writings of the English playwright and cleric Nicholas Udall. In 1533 he published a textbook, Floures for Latine Spekynge Selected and Gathered oute of Terence. Udall took example texts from the works of Terence and translated them into English. Shakespeare later used this in his play, “Julius Caesar.”
One of Udall’s pennings is this paragraph: “For Spurinna beinge a southsayer hadde warned Cesar before to beware of the Ides of Marche, for he shulde be slayne as that daye, and soo he was” (exact 16th-century writing).
One might ask why I pin this to B5G. B5G and 5G will be inextricably linked, and the permanent global wireless umbrella for the foreseeable future. My main concern is that the hype of B5G will trump 5G and push it into the background.
I recently had the privilege to chair some tracks at the 6G Symposium (https://www.6gworld.com/6gsymposium/) presented by 6G world. This symposium featured some of the more brilliant minds in the 6G tech and academic space. It was informative.
However, the one thing that got cemented in my mind is that 6G is not going to be radically new and different technology – just an extension of 5G. Hence, my belief that the term beyond 5G (B5G) is the proper term for what is coming down the pike. 5G and B5G should merge at some point, and the combination will simply integrate new technologies and platforms as they emerge.
I am concerned that as B5G evolves, we will start the hype cycle that will concentrate only on B5G. In fact, there have been some interesting opinions about that of late, one coming from one of my speakers, Tom Marzetta, the director of NYU Wireless, who presented some interesting data on the challenges of mmWave in mobile communications, both in 5G and B5G. If you are interested, here is a recent IEEE discussion with him about that – https://spectrum.ieee.org/heres-what-6g-will-be-according-to-the-creator-of-massive-mimo.
A while back, I wrote a missive on how it seems that it is never too early to start hyping a platform (https://www.aglmediagroup.com/?s=6G+hype). Others have been ringing the 5G hype bell, as well.
For example, Huawei’s rotating chairman Eric Xu, at the company’s Huawei Connect conference last week, advised against focusing on 6G targets in the early stages of its development, to ensure it is not dismissed as yet another overhyped technology. He noted there is a risk of repeating past mistakes in terms of creating unrealistic expectations for the latest technology, citing the hype cycle which accompanied 5G. “We run the risk of 6G being politicized as well,” he said.
In a June 1 post, Stacey Higginbotham, a journalist in the tech field, discussed exactly this issue, “Let’s talk about 6G because it’s never too early for hype” – https://staceyoniot.com/lets-talk-about-6g-because-its-never-too-early-for-hype/. She calls out a number of interesting paradigms in the move to B5G, but the one that struck me was this: “The jump from 5G to 6G won’t be a big leap, but rather a series of highly negotiated steps every couple of years. This will allow the industry to prepare and test new technology — and dream up good use cases and test those use cases — while readying for the new generation. It makes for bad headlines, but good tech policy.” She is spot-on. That seems to be a consensus among the really well-versed tech players in the wireless space.
We saw some of that in 5G when much of what was hyped did not appear, and people quickly lost interest. To get B5G some attention, within that space, the marketeers will be constantly looking for bits and bytes to make B5G interesting and keep it on the radar screen. However, as Higginbotham notes, and as 5G also proved, we are not going to throw a switch and have B5G, nor will it be a definitive object we can identify, visually or physically, such as a quantum computer versus an electron computer.
I did pick up some interesting and, what I consider, realistic data on how B5G is most likely to move forward. Therein lie some lessons for the hypsters to cling to.
First of all, B5G in the near term, and against much of the current hype, will be more visible in and around the sub-6 GHz spectrum. Additionally, it will consist of incremental improvement in 5G (perhaps release 20 of the 3GPP standards?).
The promising spectrum is the C-band. I am talking about the entire C-band, with early progress being made in and around the CBRS band. The space between 4 GHz and 8 GHz is a real sweet spot for mobile communications, with an ideal mix of coverage, penetration and spectrum availability. However, there are some issues, with sparring among incumbents and wannabe players.
Another area where B5G shows promise in this band is evolving internet of Anything/Everything (IoX). The massive numbers of IoX devices will require massive bandwidths. But early deployments are looking to the C-band as well. Eventually, this will ramp up through the lower mmWave (up to 12 GHz) spectrum, someday to the sub-THz (up to 300 GHz) spectrum, and eventually to the actual THz spectrum. Other areas will evolve this way as well.
In the mmWave spectrum, early success will be in the 12 GHz to maybe 28 GHz range. Much of this will take the form of helper technologies to improve enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) by extending coverage and offloading to edge networks, and small cells. But if the hypsters push high mmWave spectrum as a use case for anything beyond walking speed and limited footprint applications, it will disappoint.
The real promise of B5G is in technological improvements. Parameters such as latency, which is targeted for 100 ms, are being promised. Still others include Sparse theory, tactile networks, cell-free smart radiating surfaces, a couple of orders of magnitude in spectral efficiency and 1 Tbps data rates, all promising the same as their earlier counterparts in 5G.
However, if this goes the hype-way that 1 ms latency was pushed in 5G, the results will be the same. It will take time to implement the technology to make B5G’s performance a reality. And do not forget, these B5G numbers are simply new and improved methods of doing the same old thing, in most cases. There will, of course, be some new technologies such as Cohere’s Orthogonal Time Frequency and Space (OTFS) modulation.
Another caution is not to overpromise mmWave and make it what it is not, and not to decouple it from 5G (hence the Ides reference) to try and get it traction.
B5G is a really exciting wireless future. It promises things such as holograms, new levels of virtual reality and cell-less wireless communications. However, it is not a “new” wireless platform – just the extension of 5G.
Hopefully, the industry will have learned its lesson from the failure of 5G to launch the way they hyped it and not make the same mistake with B5G.
Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.