China launches “world’s first 6G satellite”

As most of the world moves to deploy 5G networks, China is looking to go even further with its claim to have launched “world’s first” 6G test satellite last November 6.

The satellite was launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in the Shanxi Province of China, one of three major space launch bases in China. According to a report by the BBC, the satellite is said to also carry technology that would provide state of the art forest fire prevention and crop disaster monitoring.

Named Tianyan-5, the satellite was developed by the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Being Weina Xingkong Technology and Chengdu Guoxing Aerospace Technology.

The satellite was one among 13 satellites that launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center that day.

According to a report by CGTN, a state-controlled television network in China, the launch is aimed at testing “6G communications” in space and eventually verify its performance. As described by the report, the 6G has been touted as ushering in a new age for society as advanced automation which will “decrease the need for physical labor.” The decrease of manpower however also extends to even white-collar jobs with smart systems and artificial intelligence and would even “revolutionize preventative medical treatment” and can even potentially challenge the medical profession given the progress of technologies over the recent years.

Satellite is just a test, “6G” still hasn’t been defined

As much as all these things sound promising, 6G technically doesn’t exist for the time being. For a “generation” of mobile communication to be implemented, standards should be scrutinized and implemented by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) who serves as a “governing body” and develops these standards and implement them on a global scale.

Case in point is the implementation standards of 5G that were brought together under the International Mobile Telecommunications – 2020 (IMT-2020) in which ITU standardized key technical aspects which includes spectrum usage, latency, cell capacity and connection speed.

The ITU approved the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G technology after it was deemed to have met the requirements and the standards of 5G in multiple facets and services. These services include enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC) and ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC).

Currently, there are no such talks surrounding 6G, in fact, the ITU has only  just recently launched research into what 6G should be earlier this year. Nonetheless, rumors surrounding 6G have surfaced over the recent months, with leading tech companies such as Huawei, Samsung and even China Mobile leading the charge of 6G research.

What can “6G” eventually bring?

What can we expect from 6G? A lot of things actually, with 5G being targeted to provide less than 1 ms latency and data rates exceeding 20Gb/s, 6G aims to surpass these figures. From a technical standpoint, 6G is expected to utilize terahertz waves which have higher frequencies than millimeter waves that were used in 5G (exceeding the 30 – 300 Ghz range).

One of the biggest challenges faced by 5G is creating more base stations as a result of shorter wavelengths caused by the frequency used in mm waves. In order to maintain the signal, more base stations are required to be built.

6G might encounter similar problems and challenges faced by 5G but it’s too early to tell, but definitely, 6G will revolutionize telecommunication and technology in the coming decade with even mind-boggling features that surpass the already impressive 5G.

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