While 5G is still in the process of being rolled out throughout the world, China has started working on the next standard of wireless connectivity, 6G, according to a report from the South China Morning Post. The report states that researchers in the country streamed 1 terabyte of data over 3,300 feet in one second, a record-breaking feat announced on Wednesday by a team led by Professor Zhang Chao of Tsinghua University’s School of Aerospace Engineering.
The researchers achieved this record through the use of very high-frequency radio waves known as vortex millimetre waves. The so-called 6G technology could be used for improvements in weapons and defense systems. The test proves that hypersonic weapons (those that travel at or faster than five times the speed of sound) will be able to use 6G to detect targets and for communications.
China says that it is leading the world in 6G research
An experimental wireless system was set up in the compound used for the Beijing Winter Olympics and can simultaneously stream more than 10,000 high-definition live feeds. Professor Zhang Chao, of the school of aerospace engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said that the vortex millimetre waves are unlike anything that has been used with radio communications over the last 100 years.
The professor added that these signals add “a new dimension to wireless transmission” and means that China is “leading the world in research on potential key technologies for 6G.” Current technology uses two-dimensional electromagnetic waves that move up and down to represent information. The vortex millimetre waves have three dimensions that is being compared to the whirling motion of a tornado.
This whirling motion could contain extra information that would increase the bandwidth of communications. The team working on this breakthrough in China created a one-of-a-kind transmitter allowing the waves to spin in three different modes to carry additional data. At the same time, a special receiving device was built which could decode a large amount of data in a split second. In 2020, a team from Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone company used vortex waves to produce a data speed of over 200Gbps over a distance of 33 feet. A 6G researcher working in Beijing for the Chinese government said that this is “the start of a revolution” in communications technology. The researcher asked not to be named due to the confidential work he is doing but added that “The most exciting thing is not just about the speed. It is about introducing a new physical dimension, which can lead to a whole new world with almost unlimited possibilities.”
China owns 40% of the world’s 6G patents
The report says that the commercial launch of 6G could start by 2030 in China, although the military might be able to use it earlier because performance is more important to them than cost. Another research team in Tianjin said in January that it created a terahertz transmitter, another potential technology that could be used for 6G and China’s hypersonic weapons program. The U.S. is trying to fight back and last April it announced a $4.5 billion partnership with Japan to work on 6G technology. But a study done last September by the Nikkei and Tokyo-based researcher Cyber Creative Institute found that China owns more than 40% of the world’s 5G patents. The U.S. is next with 35% followed by Japan (10%), Europe (9%), and South Korea (4%).
Right now though, the Chinese government and telecommunications sector will focus on 5G as the high-band mmWave technology has come down sharply in cost. Still, no country wants to take their eyes off of 6G which is expected to deliver terabit speeds, 100 times the capacity of 5G, and the ability to communicate from underwater to outer space. And judging from the tone of the media in China, the plan is to use 6G to improve the country’s military capabilities.