As silly as is appears, there is a rather notable uptick in the noise of beyond 5G (B6G). While 5G is barely out of the gate, B5G discussions are happening around the globe. While B5G is only in the theoretical stage, I have head some pretty far-fetched concepts of what B5G can do. I guess it is never too early for hype. Like time, technology waits for no one, but I sincerely hope that B5G comes around with as little hype as possible (none would be just fine with me).
I hesitate to call it 6G simply because it no longer makes a lot of sense that we are continually going to add the word “generation” after generation of wireless platforms to the global wireless infrastructure just to give the marketers something to use to create interest. It is fairly certain that 5G will be the last “G” and going forward there are only going to be enhancements to it (unless we somehow can link time travel to it one day).
We saw how the uptake of 5G was blown out of the water because the early noise was just that – noise. The marketing hype around it was sorely overestimated by the geniuses who thought all one has to do is create it and they will come.
Another thing is that B5G will never be earth-shattering; any more than 5G is not earth-shattering (and do not forget we still do not have any commercial 5G SA).
I say that because, at least for the foreseeable future, we are going to simply add some new but mostly evolve existing technologies and segments to the base platform of 5G, rather than leap to a new platform with the marketing name of 6G. Even with 5G, one can argue that it simply is upping the game for wireless metrics, such as latency, bandwidth, new coding schemes, better coexistence, and new frequencies. 5G is really only doing things better than 4G. Adding speed, which is the single most mentioned metric of 5G, does not constitute the next generation of a network.
The result of these advancements certainly also offers new functionality. But if we look at what we have, the demarcation lines between the generations are becoming more and more fuzzy. One line was pretty definitive – the jump from analog (1G) to digital (2G). Still relatively definable was the jump from 2G to 3G, which can also be considered a generation because it added video, which 2G did not have. But that is about where it ends. What did 4G add that 3G did not have? 4G just ramped up 3G in performance and 5G is only expanding on the capabilities of 4G.
For example, take a look at the following table. Is there anything revolutionary in 4G that was not in 3G?
The answer is no. There is an evolved technology stack, upgrades in forward error correction (FEC) and handoff technologies, and a nice increase in speeds. There is a new coding scheme, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) vs. code-division, multiple-access (CDMA) and different methods of IP support. But do we see something really “wow” like metasurfaces antennas? The answer to that is yes, but in itself it is not enough to proclaim a next generation. That is a technology that will be necessary for B5G to evolve. But again, it is just an evolutionary step in antenna technology.
This discussion can bring in many more metrics about what B5G is going to do and how it will improve on 5G performance (like 100 Gbps to 1 Tbps over 5G’s 10 Gbps). Certainly, that is admirable and a bit of a wow factor. But, again, in the end, it is only a speed improvement.
Here is a short list of some KPIs in B5G. Are any of them not seen in 5G with less implementation?
There is some argument that B5G will be radically different than 5G because it will mostly live in the mmWave spectrum. Does that make it a new generation or just concatenate on 5G? Millimeter wave is also a 5G component.
IMHO, it is just an evolution. And most of the technologies will simply be evolved from 5G. Plus, some argue that B5G will be what takes the Internet to the next level as the main interconnect and interface, rather than stand-alone wireless as we have today.
While B5G will certainly seep into the current sub-6 GHz spectrum, its real applicability will be in the THz spectrum – above 100 GHz. It will also make extensive use of spectrum sharing, even though there will be plenty of available spectrum. And that is not going to be an easy accomplishment. Still, the technologies implemented in the mmWave spectrum are not going to be any different than those in the lower bands.
The term generation should be reserved for significant, radical improvements (from steam engines to diesel and electric). Perhaps if B5G used different physics – OK, I’ll go with that. But otherwise, stop hyping and show the user what the performance improvements can do for them. That is the money ball. So, will B5G be referred to as another tired restatement of the term XG? I hope not.