China to introduce early 6G applications by 2025- way in advance of 3GPP specs & ITU-R standards

China Unicom, the country’s third-largest wireless network operator, expects to complete technical research and launch early applications for 6G technology by 2025, boosting hopes of rolling out the next-generation mobile technology by the dawn of the next decade.  That timeline was revealed by China Unicom chairman and chief executive Liu Liehong, 55, on the sidelines of the China Development Forum (CDF), a two-day conference that opened on Saturday and regarded as Beijing’s answer to the World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos, Switzerland.

Liu said early 6G “application scenarios” will be introduced by 2025 in China, home to the world’s largest internet user population and biggest smartphone market, which has been conducting research and development on the technology since 2019. He said the commercial launch of 6G in China is expected to start from 2030, according to a report by local media National Business Daily.

At the same event, China’s Minister of Industry and Information Technology Jin Zhuanglong said in his speech that China was leading the pace of 6G research and development worldwide. He said the country is already ahead in rolling out 5G mobile networks and applications.

China’s three major telecommunications network operators – China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom – are expected to start commercial 6G mobile services from 2030. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The statements made at the CDF about China’s 6G efforts have come after the Global 6G Conference, held from March 22 to 24 in Nanjing, where telecommunications industry experts reached a consensus that 6G mobile services in the country will start to roll out by early 2030.

The 6G efforts declared by China Unicom’s Liu and the head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) reflect the country’s confidence in pursuing major technological advances, despite intensifying trade and tech conflicts with the United States.

The country’s three telecoms network operators – China MobileChina Telecom and China Unicom – have all been reported to be involved in early 6G research and development, as they also expedited the roll-out of 5G infrastructure and services across the country.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington, however, have led to major telecoms equipment suppliers Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp being handicapped by various US sanctions, including access to advanced IC’s  used in smartphones and networking gear.

In spite of the disruptions caused by US pressure and the coronavirus pandemic, China has already built the world’s largest 5G mobile network, with more than 2.31 million 5G base stations deployed at the end of last year, according to MIIT data.

This year will mark the beginning of a long journey for 6G, as new studies are initiated by more countries and organisations around the world, according to a report last month by the non-profit telecoms industry body the GSMA.

The ITU-R World Radiocommunication Conference in November (WRC 23) is expected to set the spectrum foundations for 6G, the GSMA report said. Spectrum refers to the radio frequencies allocated to the mobile industry and other sectors for communications over the airwaves.


4 thoughts on “China to introduce early 6G applications by 2025- way in advance of 3GPP specs & ITU-R standards

  1. Ericsson reviewed various seminal 6G white papers across wireless industries, regional research partnerships and academia to give you the nine key takeaways from the 6G early research phase.
    1. Sustainability goals will be crucial to 6G use case development
    2. 6G will deliver extreme performance
    3. 6G networks will offer sensing capabilities
    4. 6G will support trillions of embeddable devices
    5. Network resilience will be a key design element of 6G systems
    6. 6G network architecture will be more adaptable and dynamic

  2. U.S.-China Trade War Background:
    As recently as September, Apple planned to use cheaper chips from China’s Yangtze Memory Technology for iPhones sold locally. But Apple had to quickly reverse course after the U.S. unloaded its ultimate weapon against China’s technology ambitions.

    Until then, the U.S. had moved to block access to key technologies for hundreds of entities on a case-by-case basis. Export bans targeted firms or research centers linked to China’s military. Also those engaged in surveillance of the Muslim Uyghur population or charged with violating export rules or intellectual property theft.

    Yet those restrictions were too porous to seriously blunt China’s technological progress. That may explain why Beijing resisted the urge to retaliate.

    “Technological innovation has become the main battleground of the global playing field, and competition for tech dominance will grow unprecedentedly fierce,” President Xi Jinping said in a May 2021 address.

    China looked likely to prevail, according to a December 2021 review from Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. In key 21st century technologies, such as AI, semiconductors, quantum computing and green energy, the authors concluded that China “had already become No. 1” in some areas. And it was on a path to overtake the U.S. within a decade in others — unless something major changed. And something major did change starting last September.

    In a Sept. 16 speech, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said U.S. export controls previously aimed to maintain technology leadership — staying “only a couple of generations ahead” of geopolitical rivals — but didn’t strive for dominance.

    “That is not the strategic environment we are in today,” Sullivan said. Instead, he said, the U.S. faces a competitor willing to devote nearly limitless resources to achieving leadership in technologies that can act as “force multipliers.” The new goal must be to “maintain as large of a lead as possible.”

    The Biden administration in September blocked sales of high-end AI chips from Nvidia and AMD to Chinese companies. Then on Oct. 7, the U.S. announced sweeping export rules aimed at blocking China’s chip progress at every chokepoint.

    The rules don’t just establish a presumption of denial for Chinese purchases of the most advanced AI chips. They also deny China the software to design those chips and the equipment to produce them. They also cut off the key components that go into high-level chip equipment and access to the world’s most advanced chip fabrication facilities. Lastly, the rules aim to deprive the Chinese chip industry of brain power. They require a license for any U.S. citizen, resident or firm to contribute to advanced semiconductor production in China.

    The export rules set the floor for chip equipment exports above the 14-nanometer production achieved by China’s largest chipmaker, SMIC, as early as 2019. As the industry strives to make ever-smaller circuits, which translate to faster and more power-efficient semiconductors, the U.S. aims to degrade China’s semiconductor capability. When the U.S. first restricted exports to the state-owned SMIC in 2020, it allowed equipment sales above 10 nanometers.

    Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) recently celebrated the start of mass production using its 3-nanometer technology. TSMC is building a 3nm fab in Arizona as part of a $40 billion investment.

    Allies Join U.S.-China Trade War Over Tech:
    Success of the U.S. export controls depends on the cooperation of key allies. News on that front has been largely positive. Taiwan, Japan and Netherlands are largely acceding to U.S. wishes. Netherlands is home to ASML (ASML), the only supplier of extreme ultraviolet lithography equipment needed for the most-advanced chips. In fact, ASML has agreed to go further. It’s also restricting exports of deep ultraviolet lithography equipment. That gear reportedly let SMIC achieve 7-nanometer production.

    South Korea, though seeking assurances about its chipmakers’ ongoing investments in China, also appears to be on board.

    In a March speech to Chinese businesses, Xi blasted the U.S. policy of “all-round containment, containment and suppression on our country, bringing unprecedented severe challenges to our development.”

    French President Emmanuel Macron, fresh from a China trip with a delegation including CEOs from Airbus (EADSY) and Alstom, voiced his own frustration with U.S. strategy and the presumption that Europe will fall in line. “Is it in our interest to accelerate (a crisis) on Taiwan? No,” Macron was quoted as saying.

    Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellow Matt Sheehan had cautioned that America’s “strongly zero sum approach” to confront China on technology might not be popular.

    That approach “isn’t equally compelling to countries that don’t see themselves as locked in a battle to be the one dominant global superpower.”

    Yet Macron’s criticisms have been an outlier in the escalating U.S.-China trade war. In a March 30 speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen painted a picture of “a China that is becoming more repressive at home and more assertive abroad.”

    Xi has maintained his “no limits” friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, imposed control over Hong Kong and signaled that Taiwan’s turn may come sooner than later. All that has built support for America’s escalation of the technological cold war with China.

    China-Taiwan Flashpoint:

    Some analysts believe Biden is taking a calculated gamble. The bet is that slowing China’s technology progress in the intermediate term is worth the risk that China’s semiconductor sector will emerge stronger and self-sufficient in the long run.

    Yet near-term concerns are preeminent. Taiwan boasts 90% of the manufacturing capacity for the world’s most advanced chips, a 2021 Boston Consulting Group study estimated. The U.S. has embarked on a major expansion of semiconductor production to de-risk its supply chain. That includes $52 billion in subsidies from the 2022 Chips Act. Europe and South Korea are making similar efforts.

    That may not be Biden’s only gamble. As the U.S. essentially weaponizes Taiwan’s advanced chipmaking, might Beijing try to assert its will over Taiwan by force?

    That’s an almost unimaginable scenario, one that seems certain to plunge the global economy into chaos.

    Yet China is “seriously” considering an economic blockade of Taiwan, with the idea of “winning the war without an actual fight,” deputy foreign minister Roy Chun Lee told Bloomberg this week. However, a blockade could easily escalate into military confrontation, he said.

    Early this year, a scenario only moderately less explosive briefly seemed like a real risk. The U.S. aired intelligence suggesting China might begin arming Russia to try and help Putin finish off Ukraine.

    Both U.S. and European officials warned Beijing that crossing that “red line” would bring serious reprisals.

    China Flexes Its Economic Power:

    Yet, for now, Xi is showing no inclination to cross red lines as he prioritizes China’s economic strength, undercutting America where he can.

    China scored a PR coup of sorts in March, seemingly filling the vacuum left by U.S.-Saudi frictions, when it brought together Iran and Saudi Arabia as they restored diplomatic relations. Then, claiming neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Xi paid a visit to Putin to discuss China’s peace plan.

    Although Kyiv sees the plan as a nonstarter, Macron, on his Beijing visit, credited Xi for a serious peace effort. And that wasn’t Macron’s only gift. Airbus announced plans for a second assembly line near Beijing as the European aerospace giant supplants Boeing (BA) amid heightened U.S.-China trade and geopolitical tensions.

    Beijing is seizing every opportunity to use its economic might to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its allies.

    U.S.-China Trade War Complicates Battery Charge:
    A few days after the Airbus news, Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the company will break ground this year on a new Shanghai factory that will produce 10,000 Megapack battery units to meet growing energy storage demand.

    Meanwhile, Ford (F) has reached a deal with China-owned Contemporary Amperex Technology, also known as CATL, to produce lithium ferrous phosphate EV batteries at a new factory in Michigan. Tesla reportedly has had similar discussions with CATL. Yet the Ford-CATL partnership has drawn fire from U.S. lawmakers angry that a Chinese firm might benefit, if only indirectly, from Inflation Reduction Act subsidies. Beijing, for its part, reportedly plans to scrutinize the deal out of concern Ford will gain access to sensitive technologies.

    The Ford-CATL partnership is “a symbol of how difficult it is for the United States to balance the interests of private industry with the desire to reduce dependence on Chinese technologies,” wrote Council on Foreign Relations researcher Seaton Huang.

    China Considering Restricting Exports:
    China world tradeAs the federal government puts up hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to accelerate the build-out of a U.S.-centric supply chain, Beijing may be mulling ways to disrupt things. China is considering restricting exports of technology and equipment for making photovoltaic cells for large solar panels.

    Micron, which is building a $20 billion chip factory in New York, recently warned about the impact of a ban on Chinese exports of rare earths.

    The U.S. is working to diversify its rare earth supply. MP Materials (MP), a major rare earths miner via its Mountain Pass, Calif., complex, has long shipped its unseparated bulk concentrate to China for processing. But it’s beginning to separate the rare earths it mines. The next step is completing a Texas manufacturing facility that will produce enough magnets to power 500,000 EVs per year. General Motors (GM) is a strategic partner.

    U.S.-China Relations Tense, Economies Intertwined:
    In rare earths and solar, the U.S. has the capacity to diversify away from China, analysts say. But the process may be a multiyear one with high costs.

    Five years after former President Donald Trump launched his China trade war, the world’s two biggest economies are still very much intertwined. Two-way U.S.-China trade, including Hong Kong, hit a record $725 billion in 2022, up 2.5% from 2018.

    That’s not to say there’s no decoupling. Trade in semiconductors and Boeing jets has tumbled. Agricultural exports to China have surged, but that’s thanks to food inflation.

    Over the same period, U.S.-Vietnam trade exploded by $80 billion to $139 billion. China’s exports to Vietnam, however, more than doubled over the past five years, note Carnegie Endowment fellows Yukon Huang and Genevieve Slosberg. Much of the growth in exports to Vietnam came in areas like computer accessories and telecom equipment, where Chinese exports to the U.S. fell.

    The implication: “China may be exporting less to the United States directly, but it is now indirectly exporting more.”

  3. Another Opinion on 6G:
    6G is the upcoming sixth-generation cellular network technology that is currently in early development. One of the goals of 6G cellular technology is not just to deliver basic content faster to smartphones, like streaming video, but to create a cellular network capable of supporting real-time augmented reality, virtual reality, and a future Internet of Things (IoT) model where small smart devices are a ubiquitous presence in and outside of our homes.

    When reading anything about 6G, especially the breathless and hype-laden announcements from telecommunications companies that emphasize how 6G will usher in the metaverse, a fusion of our physical and virtual lives, and so on, you should keep the “early” part of early development in mind.

    Currently, there are no established 6G specifications or standards, let alone deployed 6G networks or devices. Even the most basic aspects of 6G development, like which specific frequencies the next generation cellular technology will rely on, are still being ironed out along with technical challenges like energy and heat dissipation demands of advanced 6G devices.

    That said, we do have some idea what 6G will look like. Current cellular technology operates in the Megahertz (MHz) and the lower Gigahertz (GHz) frequency ranges. The portion of the radio spectrum under consideration and testing for 6G includes frequencies in the 30-300 Ghz range—also known as millimeter waves (mmWave) or Extremely High Frequency (EHF) radio—and the Terahertz (THz) frequency up to 3000 Ghz. The use of these frequencies will allow for data transmission well beyond the bandwidth capacity of current cellular technology.

    In December of 2022, Qualcomm released a 6G development plan with 2030 as a projected rollout date for 6G tech. Ericsson’s 6G messaging echoes the early 2030s timeframe too, as do various interviews with telecom executives.

    5G was first introduced in 2019. Four years later, there are still millions of cellular subscribers using 4G, and 5G is yet to have a fully realized coast-to-coast rollout. GSMA’s authoritative 2023 Mobile Economy report, for instance, indicates North American adoption rate of 5G is only 39%, with more than half of cellular subscribers still using 4G. By their projections, the North American 5G adoption rate will be 91% by 2030, meaning by the time 6G potentially arrives, there will still be 4G subscribers out there.

    Given the current development timelines, you should expect a delivery arc similar to the 5G rollout. If you live in a major metropolitan area, there is a good chance you’ll be covered by early 6G networks around 2030. If you’re not in a major metropolitan area, it’s likely you’ll be waiting well into the 2030s for the 6G rollout.
    So if we step away from the hype and look at the matter practically, it’s likely only a small percentage of people will be using 6G-based networks by 2030. But the bulk of North American subscribers, and certainly the majority of global subscribers, will still be on 5G networks.

  4. Nokia just opened a 6G lab in Bangalore, India which is a joke since 6G specs from 3GPP and standards from ITU-R won’t be completed until 2030-2031. So what can be tested or prototyped at that 6G lab or any of the others launched this year?

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