Has 6G Been Launched?

15/03/2023 Seektronics

Expect to see the first commercial networks around 2030 -- perhaps in parts of the world where 5G networks are being deployed early. 6G spring breeze blowing, chip companies began to move.

During the development process from 1G to 5G, 1G defined voice; 2G realized mobile communication voice services as well as some digital messaging services; 3G defined mobile Internet; 4G developed the best solution for mobile Internet; and the arrival of 5G began to promote the development of smart home, telemedicine and other applications. With the commercialization of 5G on a large scale entering the fast track, major countries and regions around the world have started 6G research. Increase 6G technology research and development support, and actively participate in promoting 6G international standardization work." The continuous promotion of 6G will bring more markets and opportunities to the chip industry.


1. 6G will open up the smart connection of all things


Compared with 5G, 6G is not only to improve the communication transmission speed so simple, if 5G is to open up the plane world of "everything connected", then 6G is about to create a three-dimensional world of "everything wisdom". Therefore, 6G has been given more performance, emphasizing the concept of "smart network anytime, anywhere, anywhere". Compared with 5G, 6G will include mobile cellular, satellite, UAV and visible light communications, and other network access methods to build an integrated air-space-Haiti network and achieve seamless global connectivity. Not only will the transmission rate, end-to-end delay, reliability, and connection number density be substantially improved over 5G, 6G will also deeply integrate with artificial intelligence technology to build an intelligent network, realize the link between the physical and virtual worlds, achieve human-machine-object-virtual space interconnection, and lay a solid foundation for the metaverse.


Compared with 5G, 6G peak rate will be increased by 10 times, and user experience rate will be increased by 2 times to 3 times. In terms of transmission performance, according to the ITU's IMT-2020 requirements definition, 5G has peak theoretical data rates of up to 20Gbps downlink and up to 10Gbps uplink, and 6G may have theoretical downlink data rates of up to 1 terabit per second (1Tbps or 1000Gbps) with latency measured in microseconds. Boosting the data rate requires spectrum resources to support it, requiring higher frequency bands and wider spectrum. In terms of spectrum, 6G will support all bands used by 5G - low band (<1GHz), mid band (1-7GHz) and millimeter wave (24-100GHz), in addition to covering up to 3000GHz terahertz. Due to its wider spectrum usage, it will provide better coverage and higher reliability.


6G Roadmap 2021-2041


In order to realize 6G wireless communication technology, various technical solutions have been proposed worldwide. The key technologies include terahertz (THz) technology, new beam technology, multi-access technology, channel coding technology, large-scale multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology and spectrum management.


2. 6G chip process technology requirements


In the process of wafer manufacturing, the market demand for mobile communications has been driving the development of semiconductor processes. As the more advanced process can bring better chip performance and lower power consumption, in the 5G era, terminal chip manufacturers are pursuing more advanced processes. By the 6G era, terminal chip makers will again increase the pursuit of the chip process and begin to move toward 1nm or even lower nodes. "The 5G era is using 12nm FinFET, 7nm and 5nm are expected to continue for a longer period of time, after which it will enter the 3nm GAA and 2nm GAA era. 6G era will start with 1.5nm GAA and achieve great development after equivalence with 1nm and 0.7nm GAA." In terms of chip integration, future 6G terminals will face the need for high integration, high complexity, miniaturization, low power consumption and chip device heterogeneity, etc. The combination of two solutions, SoC and SiP, can create more application value while pursuing semiconductor process enhancement and device material innovation.


3. 6G brings chip opportunities


The above-mentioned 6G chip will take a variety of spectrum, which covers the wave frequency including millimeter wave and terahertz frequency (100-1000GHz) can bring new opportunities for RF class core chip. Millimeter-wave chip millimeter-wave chip is able to achieve in the millimeter-wave frequency band for signal transceiver IC devices. Because the millimeter wave phased array chip integrates millimeter wave technology and phased array principle, high technical difficulty, in the past mainly used in the military industry. Thanks to the rapid iteration of 5G and 6G communications, millimeter wave has been able to open up the civilian market and become a major development direction of the global communications industry. In terms of millimeter wave chips, Intel released the XMM80605G multimode baseband chip in November 2017, which supports both the sub-6GHz band and the 28GHz millimeter wave band. In 2020, Qualcomm released the Snapdragon X60, a third-generation 5G modem-to-antenna solution. The Snapdragon X60 uses a 5nm process for 5G basebands. Tests have shown that scenarios without RIS limit effective coverage, while with the addition of RIS, coverage is enhanced and extended. Terahertz wave chips, as a key frequency band for 6G development, have great advantages in the propagation of communications. First of all, it is the terahertz wave is more adaptable to different environments, it can track and calibrate the beam, and can penetrate wood, ceramic, plastic, fat, and other obstructions; secondly, the energy of terahertz wave is smaller, which is less likely to cause harm to the human body and has higher security; finally, the performance of terahertz wave determines that it is difficult for unauthorized users to eavesdrop from the narrower THz beam, which ensures the message This ensures the confidentiality of the message. By designing and producing miniaturized platforms using current silicon manufacturing processes, new high-speed THz interconnects chips will be easily integrated into electronic and photonic circuit designs and will contribute to the widespread adoption of THz in the future, including large data centers, IoT devices, large multi-core computing chips, remote communications, atmospheric and environmental monitoring, real-time bio information extraction and medical diagnostics. Therefore, in the process of THz wave development, it can drive the THz wave-related chips. At present, international companies have made progress in terahertz wave chips. In 2013, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics in Germany developed a THz monolithic integrated circuit (TMIC) operating in the frequency band above 600 GHz, which uses a 35 nm In0.80Ga0.20As/In0.52Al0.48As high electron mobility transistor ( HEMT) fabrication process, and measured the average output power of -16 dBm in the w-band (75-110 GHz) with a 6-frequency multiplier in the 580-625 GHz band. Based on this chip fabrication technology, in 2015, the University of Stuttgart, Germany, conducted data transmission experiments using a complete MMIC chipset at the transmit and receive RF front ends and found that QSPK (quadrature phase shift control keying) data rates of up to 64 Gbit/s could be transmitted at a carrier frequency of 300 GHz. 2019, NTT Group, Japan, developed a terahertz RF chip that achieved In 2020, Prof. Ranjan Singh's team at Nanyang Technological University and Prof. Masayuki Fujita and Prof. Tadao Nagatsuma's team at Osaka University jointly developed an ultra-high-speed terahertz wireless chip, which enables efficient, integrative, and low-cost THz topology optical on-chip communication, and used it to The chip enables real-time transmission of uncompressed 4 K HD video.


850 GHz single outlier receiver part of the physical chip diagram


Nowadays, terahertz RF chips for long-distance communication still mainly use III-V semiconductor HEMT and HBT transistors to achieve RF-related work. As the Hertz RF chip is still not too mature, the output power can not cover a wide range, the miniaturization is not high, it can not reach the requirements of 6G network commercialization. 5G will remain the main traffic-carrying network for a longer period of time in the future.


4. When will 6G arrive?


Since 2019, Huawei has set up a 6G R&D lab in Ottawa, Canada, to start research and development of 6G technology, which goes hand in hand with 5G technology. Later, ZTE also said it began to research and development toward 6G networks. On May 30, 2020, it said it would jointly conduct research in key areas such as future mobile communication networks, next-generation Internet and mobile Internet, industrial Internet, and artificial intelligence for 6G. Now, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has also indicated that it will make every effort to promote the development of 6G innovation and optimize the development layout of supporting industries such as chips and new materials. If the development of 6G follows the historical 10-year pace, we can expect to see the first commercial network around 2030 - perhaps in parts of the world where 5G networks were deployed earlier. 6G's spring breeze is blowing and chip companies are starting to move.