NTT Docomo looks ahead to 6G, despite 5G's infancy

Monday, 10 February, 2020

NTT Docomo looks ahead to 6G, despite 5G's infancy

Most companies are still looking to deploy and refine 5G, but NTT Docomo is already looking ahead to evolved 5G and 6G.

The Japanese mobile operator released a white paper outlining its predictions for the 2020s and 30s and the kinds of expectations next-generation communications will need to meet. It also suggested potential components and performance targets for the technologies.

This includes the expansion of communications across the earth, sky and at and under the sea.

“High-rise buildings, drones, flying cars, airplanes and even space will be natural activity areas, and not only the ground but also the sky and space will be indispensable communication areas,” the white paper said.

But, “Due to the needs of various sensor networks, unmanned factories and unmanned construction sites, it is also necessary to construct a communication area in an environment without human beings.”

Docomo also anticipated the need for extremely high speed and capacity (over 100 Gbps), reliability, connectivity and sensing and low-latency technologies. In the 6G era, device connections are projected to increase to around 10 million devices per square kilometre — tenfold more than expected under 5G.

Meeting these needs will require the examination of new, 3D network topologies, “including in a vertical direction”, the white paper said. Coverage expansion could further be achieved using geostationary, low earth orbit and high-altitude pseudo satellites, it added. High-altitude pseudo satellites have “attracted attention again recently because it can be stationed at a fixed location at an altitude of approximately 20 km and can form a wide coverage area with a cell radius of greater than 50 km on land”, it said.

Additionally, while 5G NR supports 52 GHz frequency bands and “extension to approximately 100 GHz is examined for future release”, the US FCC recommended that frequencies such as 95 GHz to 3 THz be considered for 6G, the white paper said.

Docomo claims it achieved “successful radio wave propagation experiments at frequencies of up to 150 GHz” in 2018.

The company said it will “continue its research and development of 5G evolution and 6G technology” and aims to: achieve “a combination of advances in connectivity, including ultra-high speed, large capacity and low latency”, extend communication coverage, pioneer new frequency bands, including terahertz frequencies and provide ultra-low energy and cost communications. It also hopes to ensure “highly reliable communications” and realise “the capability of massive device-connectivity and sensing”.

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