The announcement that the ITU is now looking beyond 5G is causing much merriment in the offices of Disruptive.Asia. Although the task force has not been set up as a 6G group, the industry will inevitably call it 6G.
It is, of course, correct to keep looking ahead and there are some heavy hitters involved in the task force. Richard Li of Huawei is chairman of the group, with Mehmet Toy of Verizon as his vice chair.
There are two problems with this and basically two reasons for the chuckling.
The first, rather obviously, is that 5G is not here yet. Devices will begin to appear in the next year or two. Applications will be touted, hyped and will disappear into enterprise applications or oblivion. We still have to deal with a lot of hype, then a lot of experimentation, then disappointment before we get our brains around 5G.
So, perhaps thinking about 6G – sorry ‘enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications, and optimal, reliable and low-latency communications’ – is a little premature.
The other reason for the giggling is the initial list of ‘requirements’ for communications in 2030.
It reads, to be honest, like a list of cool things to do in an amusement arcade.
“Holographic communications will have a big part to play in industry, agriculture, education, entertainment and many other fields, so it will specify some requirements,” Li says.
In other words, we will be completely immersed in our digital world by 2030, to the point, it would seem, where almost everything can be controlled from your sofa. Milk the cows, build a car, play multi-player War Craft. Repeat until virtual supper time.
All from your sofa.
The bigger, more serious, problem is surely that we are now coming to the conclusion that 5G was developed because it could be, not because of some serious, overwhelming business opportunity. Yes, the world is demanding ever more bandwidth and yes, we are going digital faster than anyone thought possible. But we still haven’t worked out who is going to make the money, to repay the colossal investment in all this.
It just seems a little crazy, now that 5G is just about in sight through the fog of hype, to set ourselves up for a return match of ridicule about the ‘next generation’, again with no business model in the mix.
In fact, the merriment is already giving way to sadness and a feeling that we will not learn the lessons of 5G and will set out to ‘enhance’ or develop something based on a spec. sheet of hype and arcade games. Maybe we won’t even have to leave the sofa to do it.