Korea’s preparation for 6G

It’s been two years since fifth-generation (5G) telecommunication services were first rolled out in Korea in April 2019, and so it may seem early to focus on 6G. But given the launch of the next generation services is a long-term project, now is the time to speed up research and development.

While 5G technology offers 20-times faster data speed than 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks, it has yet to be seen what improvements 6G will be able to offer. Industry experts expect to see the new services commercialized by 2030, noting that 5G technology also took a decade to be developed and commercialized.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) commenced research work on 6G in March last year. A 6G research timetable has been set up and the ITU plans to launch a future technology vision proposal in the first half of this year and have it completed by June 2023.

Major countries including the U.S., Japan and China have already launched large-scale R&D projects on 6G technology, with governments offering subsidies and easing regulations.

In Korea, smartphone manufacturers and telecom firms have initiated R&D on 6G technology. In 2019, Samsung Electronics set up a research center for future telecommunications technology within Samsung Research. The center plans to collaborate with universities and research centers here and abroad on 6G technology. The company stated in July that 6G technology could offer data speeds that are 50-times faster than 5G, and cut lag times to a tenth of their current numbers.

LG Electronics has partnered with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) on developing 6G technology, setting up a joint research center in January 2019.

SK Telecom joined hands with Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson to conduct co-research on the new technology.

In January 2020, the government unveiled a comprehensive set of plans on strengthening R&D into information and communications technology, which included supporting policies.

No country that first introduced next generation mobile communication technology has been able to take the title for two consecutive iterations. This is probably because a substantial amount of resources and funding go into developing a new technology, and considering the scale of investment needed, it is difficult to immediately switch focus to the next project.

Such circumstances could leave Korea at a disadvantage. But the public and private sector should strategically work together and accelerate efforts to enable the country to keep its title as an ICT leader.