A bit of highly futuristic thinking was on display at the Mobile World Congress, where UAE-headquartered operator Etisalat told visitors about its ambitious 6G plans.
But this is apparently not science fantasy. According to local press reports, Etisalat has said that it has taken considerable efforts towards 6G realisation by “conducting research and developing international standards that are the main building blocks for the 6G ecosystem”.
This is a technology that could usher in transmission speeds 100 times greater than 5G, along with near-zero latency, and connection densities as high as 10 million devices per square kilometre, as the IoT, already a key part of 5G, becomes an important factor in economic growth.
The session, by Haitham Abdulazzak, chief technology officer, Etisalat, was called Setting the Roadmap to 6G. He was quoted as saying, “As part of our vision and future technology planning, 6G is going beyond earth networks into space to enable a new era of services and usage scenarios with terabyte data traffic resulting in extraordinary human-to-machine interaction.”
Inevitably, detail was in short supply, especially as 5G is still rolling out in much of the world and the standardisation process for 6G has barely started. A reasonable guess is that 6G could be seven years from early commercial deployment and a lot longer from widespread rollout.
Nevertheless, said Abdulazzak, Etisalat wants to be ready and “is upgrading tools and capabilities of its R&D centre to enhance the contribution towards 6G global standardisation within the international fora and alliances”.
The operator is present in 16 markets of which Etisalat's home market, the UAE, has undoubtedly made impressive strides in 5G and fibre already, though its land area is a lot smaller than many countries, making widespread rollout much less challenging.