With the precision of a swiss watch, no sooner has 5G just started to be rolled out in 2020 than the first conversations began on 6G. What is refreshing this time around is a much sharper debate emerging on the direction of 6G. When 5G started there were lots of ideas travelling in different directions and they were all thrown on the bandwagon. It made 5G very complex and difficult to communicate.

The 6G debate has seen some arguing strongly that 5G should be the last of the mobile “generations”. There should be no 6G. Others have immediately started to fill-in the parameters for a new 6G radio access technology and selected the next more challenging higher frequency band. Terahertz is a word appearing in many early visions.

There is a glimmer of fresh thinking. The most ambitious is for 6G to be  inspired by the great societal and economic challenges ahead. The European Commission appear to be thinking along these lines.

Ericsson has suggested the “Internet of Senses” should be at the heart of the technology and services vision. Others have arrived in the same space.

What these early ideas have in common is for the research community to think more deeply at the outset about new “6G services” that would excite consumer interest or do some specific societal good that the public applaud – something that 5G’s eMBB offering of higher data speeds has failed to ignite. And consumers are not the only ones less impressed by the focus on ever higher data speeds. The financial community, who are funding the mobile operators roll out of 5G, are less than happy with such large sums of money being being invested in 5G networks, with no evidence of consumers being willing to pay extra for having faster data speeds. It is the industrial use of 5G that appears to be finding willing customers.

Setting a high ambition for 6G is all very well but can never amount to much if the road map for 6G does not provide adequate time at the start for the necessary research on the long-lead time enabling technologies.