China has launched what it claims is the world’s first 6G satellite into space in order to test new spectrum bands that will be used to power future networks.
The development of 6G is still at a very early stage and it is still unclear what network technologies will form a commercial standard and what use cases will emerge. This means the satellite will contain very little ‘6G technology’.
There is a consensus however that the addition of integrated intelligence and new spectrum will deliver superior speeds, capacity, and latency.
These characteristics, it is argued, will overcome current technological limitations – such as the limited processing capability of mobile devices – to enable truly immersive extended reality (XR), high-fidelity mobile hologram and digital twin applications.
However, it is widely expected that 6G networks will be powered by terahertz (THz) spectrum that will deliver significant advances in speed and capacity. indeed, it is anticipated that 6G will up to 100 times faster than 5G.
It is this spectrum that will form the focus of these satellite experiments. Specifically, the satellite will test the performance of terahertz spectrum in space, believing the new frequencies will enable lossless transmission and long-distance communications with lower power consumption.
The hope is that 6G powered by terahertz spectrum could provide a major enhancement to satellite internet services that have traditionally been constrained by speed, capacity, and latency issues.
There are several research initiatives around the world focusing on 6G development. In addition to China, the €251 million 6Genesis programme is already well underway in Northern Finland. The US also has 6G ambitions and Samsung is keen to expand its influence into the world of networks.
It is thought a standard could be finalised by 2028 with commercial launches starting in 2030.