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The Race to 5G…and 6G?

As carriers reveal their 5G plans, some in the industry are already looking ahead to 6G.

While walking the show floor at IMS 2019, one of the central and most obvious themes was 5G. With all the talk over the last several years, it almost feels like 5G is becoming old news. One consensus from the show is that it’s now time for 5G to turn into a reality. And it’s certainly becoming real, with carriers already announcing that 5G is live in some markets. (On that front, T-Mobile recently disclosed the launch of its 5G network in six U.S. cities: Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York City.) It’s no surprise that each of the carriers wants to win the 5G race.

In the RF/microwave industry, companies are also doing whatever it takes to get a piece of the 5G pie. This applies to suppliers of test-and-measurement equipment, which are aiming to provide the latest and greatest and test solutions, as well as design software companies striving to offer the needed simulation tools. Of course, components suppliers are eager to get in on the 5G action, too.

As every reader knows, higher millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequencies are an essential aspect of 5G. Speaking of higher frequencies, Ted Rappaport of NYU WIRELESS along with others recently published a paper titled, “Wireless Communications and Applications Above 100 GHz: Opportunities and Challenges for 6G and Beyond.” That’s right—while everyone is talking about 5G, NYU WIRELESS is actually looking ahead to 6G. Will terahertz frequencies enable future 6G wireless communication systems? It’s interesting to think about, but something that we probably won’t know for quite some time.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how 5G ultimately comes together. As Sarah Yost, senior solutions marketing manager, SDR, at National Instruments (NI), recently wrote concerning 5G, “This is an exciting year for 5G as consumers are just starting to take advantage, but it’s just the beginning of being able to realize and harness 5G’s potential. When LTE was first being deployed, no one could imagine how the services it enabled, such as Uber, would change our world forever. It’s exciting to speculate about how 5G is going to change the world and even more thrilling to watch as it starts to unfold.”

So, while some are already pondering 6G, let’s first see what 5G has in store for us.

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