What Is 6G Internet?

The hottest internet of 2030 is already well into its planning phase and will change everything.

Written by

Last Updated: Nov 28, 2023
Stylistic image representing the 6G standard.
6G is still a long way off, but its impact on our everyday lives will be more significant than you might expect.
  • The 6G standard is set to revolutionize how we connect and enable futuristic technologies like smart cities and advanced AI.
  • Beyond faster internet, 6G will enable real-time applications and innovative concepts, transforming how we live and work.
  • While we don’t expect 6G until 2030, advancements in 5G technology are paving the way for this next leap in connectivity.

Although 5G internet is only just becoming more common, the pace of progress never slows, and 6G is already coming to life — conceptually, anyway. You’ll hear lots of futuristic concepts bundled together with mentions of 6G, like automated cities, terahertz waves, and artificial general intelligence. Essentially, 6G will be about more than just faster internet; it’ll be an entirely new way of thinking about global connectivity.

What Will the Benefits of 6G Internet Be?

The most practical benefits of 6G internet will be enabling technologies that aren’t currently the norm today. Think of things like fully connected and automated smart cities, real-time medical monitoring devices, global metaverses, and other lofty ideas that are little more than buzzwords today.

Practically speaking, 6G will support speeds far greater than our networks are capable of today. Latency will become almost nonexistent in many cases, allowing for new degrees of precision communication. It will likely work hand-in-hand with Wi-Fi 7 to create more robust networks in our homes and communities.

Historically, each generation of wireless technology, from 1G to 5G, has brought significant advancements. The technology behind 6G aims to continue this trend, potentially transforming both digital communication and data transmission by the 2030s.

When Will 6G Internet Be Available?

Right now, it’s looking like 6G is going to come online sometime around 2030. New standards take a long time to develop, as they tend to be a cumulative representation of about a decade’s worth of technological progress.

What About 5G Advanced?

5G Advanced, often considered “5.5G,” represents the evolution and enhancement of 5G technology. It’s not a new generation of wireless technology, but rather an upgrade to the existing 5G standards. This advancement is part of the 3GPP’s Release 17 and beyond, which aim to improve various aspects of 5G.

5G Advanced is probably best seen as a bridge toward 6G, laying the groundwork for more revolutionary changes in wireless technology expected with the advent of 6G.

Potential Technical Aspects of 6G

Reaching new heights, 6G is expected to leverage higher frequencies, potentially in the terahertz range (more on this below), offering far greater bandwidth and lower latency than its predecessors. Key technical advancements of 6G may include:

  • Enhanced MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output): Utilizing more antennas for improved data rates and network capacity
  • Integration of artificial intelligence: For optimizing network operations and improving user experiences
  • Use of terahertz frequencies: Allowing for faster data speeds and more efficient data encoding

For a comparison of 5G and 6G, take a look at the following chart:

Feature 5G 6G
Frequency band Sub-6 GHz and mmWave (up to 30 GHz) Terahertz (THz) range, potentially over 100 GHz
Data speed Up to 10 Gbps Expected to exceed 1 Tbps (1,000 Gbps)
Latency Around 1 millisecond Less than 1 millisecond
Network density Supports 1 million devices per square km Expected to support 10 million devices per square km
Standardization Established global standards Still in the research phase, no established standards yet
Deployment timeline Began in 2019 Expected around 2030

Terahertz: Future Waves

In 2019, a significant step toward a 6G future was taken when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved explorations into “terahertz waves” or “submillimeter waves,” spanning the 95 GHz to 3 THz range on the spectrum. These frequencies are higher than the millimeter waves currently heralded as a solution for network congestion and bandwidth limitations. Millimeter waves are key to the advanced versions of 5G, offering high data capacity and ultra-fast speeds, which are essential for innovations like automated vehicles and remote surgeries.

However, millimeter waves have a limitation: They require a direct line of sight and can cover short distances only. Terahertz waves face a similar challenge, with an even more limited range. However, their successful integration through innovative networking methods could significantly expand the capacity of 6G networks.

How Will 6G Impact the World?

Illustrated image of an interconnected city
Smart, interconnected cities will become feasible with ultra-dense 6G networks.

The applications of 6G could be transformative, extending beyond enhanced mobile broadband to change more fundamental aspects of our global infrastructure.

  • Ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLCs): Crucial for applications requiring instantaneous response, such as remote surgery and autonomous vehicles
  • Massive machine-type communication (mMTC): Enabling a more interconnected IoT (Internet of Things) landscape
  • Emerging technologies: Holographic communications and advanced virtual/augmented reality experiences could become mainstream, reshaping entertainment, education, and healthcare.

6G and AI: A Perfect Pairing

Stylistic image of AI networks with a holographic brain
Artificial intelligence relies on good connectivity for virtually every aspect of its development and deployment, and 6G will enable entirely new forms of AI.

6G technology is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence (AI), making it faster, more efficient, and more integrated into our daily lives. With 6G, AI will be able to process and handle data at unprecedented speeds, allowing for real-time responses and decision-making.

Imagine an AI that can analyze and respond to information almost instantly — that’s what 6G can enable. This will be particularly noticeable in applications like self-driving cars, where split-second decisions are crucial. Additionally, 6G’s ability to provide reliable, high-speed connections everywhere means AI can be more seamlessly integrated into various devices and environments, from smart homes to industrial settings.

The support for edge computing, where data is processed closer to where it’s collected, will make AI responses even quicker and more efficient. Also, 6G will enhance IoT, leading to smarter, AI-driven solutions in our homes and workplaces, especially in the presence of a Web3 internet infrastructure. In essence, 6G is set to be the backbone that will lead to more sophisticated, responsive, and integrated AI applications in our everyday lives.

Challenges of Developing 6G

The development of 6G technology faces a multitude of challenges and necessitates extensive research in various areas. One of the primary technological hurdles is the development of hardware capable of operating at terahertz frequencies, which is essential for achieving the high data speeds envisioned for 6G. Additionally, integrating artificial intelligence seamlessly into network infrastructures presents a significant challenge, requiring advancements in both AI and networking technologies.

Another critical aspect is the establishment of global standards for 6G operations, ensuring universal compatibility and efficiency across different regions and devices. This need for standardization extends to spectrum allocation, which is a key area of ongoing research. Spectrum allocation strategies are crucial for maximizing the efficiency and reach of 6G networks. Moreover, enhancing the energy efficiency of these networks is another critical research area, as the increased complexity and capabilities of 6G networks could lead to higher energy demands.

Finally, bolstering network security is paramount in the development of 6G, given the increasing reliance on wireless networks for a wide range of applications, including sensitive and critical infrastructure. The combined efforts in these research areas will pave the way for the successful implementation and widespread adoption of 6G technology.

6G Development Is a Global Effort

Stylistic image of planet Earth covered in data streams
Nations and corporations across the globe are building toward 6G, and one day we might see a completely interconnected world.

Countries and corporations worldwide are investing heavily in 6G research. This includes initiatives by leading tech companies, collaborations between academic institutions and industry leaders, and governmental support in countries like the United States, China, and members of the European Union. These efforts highlight the global interest in advancing 6G technology and the race to be at the forefront of its development.

6G promises to enhance connectivity, boost economic growth through technological advancements, and possibly address some of the most long-standing issues of the digital divide. However, it also raises concerns about privacy, security, and the environmental impact of increasingly complex network infrastructures.

The Bottom Line: 6G Will Change Your Life — Just Not Yet

At present, 6G is nothing but a collection of ideas and schematics. One day, it’ll enable technologies and services that will change the way we live our lives, just as the internet itself has.

Until that day comes, it remains an aspirational milestone to gauge our progress against. As technological progress continues to accelerate, expect to watch these abstract ideas morph into tangible solutions.