5G is barely here – just three countries have nationwide commercial rollout. In some parts of the world, 4G is just arriving. So, what’s all this talk about the technological capabilities that 6G will unlock? How does any of it differ from 5G, anyway? If you’re wondering about 5G vs. 6G, you’re not alone. Here are a few key points.
5 Facts About 5G vs. 6G
5G and 6G exploded into the tech scene at about the same time. Just as 5G rolls out commercially, 6G research and development (R&D) projects have launched. That may lead to some confusion about the difference between the two. Here are five things to know.
1. 5G and 6G Use Two Different Parts of the Spectrum
Both 5G and 6G take advantage of higher frequencies on the wireless spectrum to transmit more data, faster. However, 5G occupies broadband frequencies at sub-6 gigahertz (GHz) and above 24.25 GHz – called low band and high band frequencies respectively. 6G will operate at 95 GHz to 3 terahertz (THz). At those wavelengths, 6G will deliver speeds 1,000 times faster than 5G (which is only four to five times faster than 4G).
2. 5G Makes the Internet of Things Possible. 6G Speeds It Up
Part of the reason 5G is so anticipated lies in the expectation that it will finally make the Internet of Things a practical everyday reality. The frequencies used by 4G are too narrow and too crowded to transmit data at the speeds that smart devices need to function optimally. That’s why they haven’t gained widespread traction. That’s going to change with 5G, and likely again with 6G.
3. 5G Will Not Replace 4G. 6G Will Not Replace 5G
While 4G was 3G but faster, 5G and 6G represent different iterations of wireless connectivity. Many predictions expect 6G will be reserved for business, military, and industrial purposes with some consumer uses such as immersive entertainment. It won’t be practical to have every device streaming with 6G – but other advances may change that.
4. 6G Opens New Frontiers of Connectivity But 5G Doesn’t
5G has struggled to arrive because of its infrastructure requirements. In contrast, 6G will build on the infrastructure we put down for 5G and enhance connectivity – on land, under the sea, or even in space.
5. Both Generations Have Very Low Latency
Latency refers to the time it takes for a packet of information to transmit over a frequency. 4G latency is about 50 milliseconds. In 5G, that drops to 5 milliseconds – about 10 times lower. 6G latency is estimated at 1 millisecond, a latency five times lower than that of 5G. That almost instantaneous speed will help make massive data transmissions possible.
4G vs. 5G vs. 6G: More Than Just Evolutions of Wireless Technology
6G means more than just faster speeds and more data transfer, although those things will exist. When we consider 4G vs. 5G, we can see how wireless technology has evolved. It becomes more nuanced when considering 5G vs. 6G – but that may just be because the technology remains a decade in the future.