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China joins the race to 6G

Days after 5G was switched on by the three telecom operators in China, the Chinese government officially launched a 6G R&D programme.

Yes, you read it right. 6G is officially on the card. Reported by the Science and Technology Daily today, the official launch meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) on 3 November, two days after the country’s three incumbent telecom operators started offering 5G commercial services. The government department oversees the country’s long-term strategy in science and technology, and also owns the newspaper.

Two organisations will be set up to drive 6G R&D in China. The 6G R&D Working Group will be composed of government representatives from different departments, and will be responsible for overall promotion and implementation of R&D in 6G. The Experts Group will include 37 scientists and technology experts from academia, research institutes, and businesses, and will be responsible for setting 6G R&D agenda and conducting technology evaluation, as well as advising on important government policies.

The government officials believed this will be a prescient programme, when 6G technology roadmaps and use scenarios are still far from having an industry-wide consensus. Such an early move will help China assume a driving role to define where the technologies are going. Some industry experts have estimated that 6G will start taking a more concrete shape from around 2030.

China is not the first country to officially start research in 6G. The Finnish government endorsed the “6Genesis” programme already last year. The programme, led by the University of Oulu in northern Finland, will run into 2016. The first 6G Wireless Summit was held in March in Levi, a ski resort in Finnish Lapland, and the world’s first 6G whitepaper, “Key drivers and research challenges for 6G ubiquitous wireless intelligence” was published in September.

Shortly before the Finns came onstage at Mobile World Congress to announce their ambitions and plans, the most high-profile advocate for 6G was President Donald Trump, who tweeted at the beginning of the year that he wanted 6G in the United States as soon as possible.

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