While the world is still feeling its first steps towards actually benefiting from the fifth generation of networks, features of global competition have emerged to develop the next generation. To the extent that the efforts to develop 6G networks offer technological prospects that drive the global economy and reflect on the digital development processes in societies. However, at the same time, it raises political concerns, and highlights the shifts in international competition in light of a new “arms race” for a technological lead.
From 5G to 6G:
While many countries started commercial 5G technology in 2019, the network currently covers approximately 7% of the world’s population, and the percentage is expected to rise to 20% by 2025; It stands out on the other side attempts and plans to develop 6G technology.
Sixth generation networks are still theoretical conversations in their early stages, and they have – in some estimates – a decade to become a reality. So that the development of 6G networks will be completed by 2028 – and in some estimates 2025 – and the technological products that operate in them will begin to appear by 2030.
With regard to the characteristics of the new generation, it is expected that the speed of these networks will reach 100 times faster than the fifth generation. And to advance technological techniques that were for a long time classified as science fiction.
According to theoretical envisions, 6G networks will allow the human brain to integrate with computers, and will work to achieve communication between people and things such as furniture and clothes, and even the communication of these tools and things to each other, in addition to supporting the work of devices without batteries.
While today we have powerful virtual and augmented reality systems, smart cities and farms that are fully connected to the Internet, and smart robot systems that work in factories; The sixth generation will develop these technologies, and support these sectors to a greater extent, while creating new technological technologies.
In general, the capabilities and technologies of Internet-connected devices will greatly improve when using 6G networks, and new devices and technologies will be developed, as 6G networks will play an important role in the revolution of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. For example, self-driving cars will be able to gain accurate knowledge of their location, the surrounding environment and its changes, and communicate with other cars, which contributes to avoiding accidents and congestion, and reducing travel time as much as possible. This development will also be reflected in medical care using robots in remote-controlled surgeries.
However, on the other hand, there are scientific and technological challenges that must be overcome in order to develop new generation technologies, including the extent to which very short air waves can easily penetrate some materials. In order to be ultra-dense, networks may need to install many base stations in every building or even every signal receiving and transmitting device, which possibility raises questions about health, privacy and urban design. There is also a need to develop and double the efficiency of the current network infrastructure, and to develop semiconductors and processors that can handle frequencies and huge data.
The countries of the world are competing to be ahead of others in accessing sixth-generation network technologies and registering patents, as a clear-cut race emerges between the United States of America and China, and between them Europe, which is seeking to gain a foothold in light of the blazing competition between Washington and Beijing, and Japan is also trying to catch up in the race.
1- The United States : The United States of America attaches great importance to the development of sixth generation networks in order to restore technological leadership and confront the Chinese technological influence that has emerged in the fifth generation networks, which was evident in Donald Trump’s tweet during his presidency of the United States in February 2019 that he wants networks 5G and 6G as soon as possible. Unlike 5G, it does not appear that the United States and its allies will easily lose the race to lead the 6G technology. It is likely that the United States will employ economic and trade tools and sanctions in order to hinder the progress of China’s Huawei towards 6G.
Last October, the ATIS Alliance announced the Next G alliance with the goal of strengthening North American leadership in technology networks and the development of 6G networks. This alliance includes in its membership many giant technology companies, and members of the alliance include technology giants such as: “Apple”, “AT&T”, “Google”, “Bell”, “Microsoft”, “Nokia”, “Facebook”, “Samsung” and Qualcomm, Ericsson and Verizon, among others.
2- China: After its obvious successes in developing 5G networks, Beijing is making rapid progress in the race to develop 6G networks. Last November, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology announced the establishment of two broad working groups to work on the development of the sixth generation of communications networks, so that the first group includes government sectors responsible for foreseeing the way in which the 6G network will be developed, while the second group includes 37 universities and scientific institutes And companies responsible for the technical side.
Last November, China launched the first satellite to test the waves of the sixth generation networks. Huawei also has a research center in Canada specializing in 6G.
3- Europe: Last February, the European Commission adopted a European Strategic Partnership on Smart Grids and Services, as a joint pledge of a public investment in research and development of EUR 900 million for the period 2021-2027. In addition to financing from the private sector, total investment nearly doubled. The European Union aims from that partnership to strengthen Europe’s technological supremacy in the sixth generation networks race through a program of research and innovation, preparing for the adoption of 6G technologies by the end of the decade, as well as promoting the deployment of 5G networks in Europe with the aim of developing leading digital markets, enabling digital and green transformation of the economy and society.
Last December, the Hexa-X 6G research group was established with funding from the European Union, with the membership of a number of major technology companies such as: Ericsson, Orange, Telefonica, Intel, Siemens and Nokia, in addition to Universities of Oulu and Pisa.
4- Japan: Japan is trying to catch up with the race to develop 6G networks, despite its distance from its competitors. In this regard, it is exploiting the decline in confidence in Beijing, the embargo imposed on its companies, and the commercial and political disputes between China on the one hand and the United States and European countries on the other. Tokyo sees the sixth generation race as an opportunity to regain its leadership role in the technical field after China’s recent superiority with technical products and services that combine quality and acceptable cost.
In 2019, the Japanese government pledged to support companies’ research on 6G technology with about $2 billion. Tokyo also announced in December 2020 that it would allocate about $500 million in its third supplementary budget planned for fiscal year 2020 to promote research and development in advanced wireless communication services for the sixth generation network.
The global competition for the development of 6G networks presents a number of indications, including:
1- A new global race: The competition over new technology and network generations brings to mind races, and indicates the great position that technology has acquired as an area of competition due to the repercussions of having advanced capabilities in it on various sectors, including the economic and other sectors. Indeed, the group of players that will be able to achieve the greatest gains in the sixth generation race will be the biggest winners in the “next industrial and technological revolution.”
2- Political trust: The course of the international race confirms the intertwining of political trust with the economic and technological aspects, as China and its company Huawei suffer from a decline in indicators of political confidence in them, especially in the European Union and the United States, with repercussions on the popularity and technical reputation, which was manifested in the The controversy over imposing a ban on the import of 5G equipment from Huawei, a controversy that is expected to continue and renew with regard to 6G if the current context continues. It is unlikely that the distrust of Chinese companies in these countries will decline, given the belief that Chinese technology is linked to political and ideological goals, and in light of the Chinese companies’ association with the Chinese government and army.
3- Economic repercussions: The sixth generation networks will enhance economic development, and will give comparative advantages to the economies of the countries that will win this race and enhance their competitiveness. 6G will be a boost to the digital economy, improve industrial performance, and increase production efficiency.
While economic and commercial tools play a prominent role in global politics, technology has gained a distinct place within these tools at the expense of traditional tools. The economic role of the new technology will not be limited to supporting the national economy, but will form one of the axes of economic and trade relations with other countries.
In sum, the 6G race draws the features of a global competition that does not only seek to achieve commercial and economic gains, but seeks to achieve future leadership of the world through technology, which comes in light of intense global competition. The rise of China poses a growing challenge to the United States of America and the European Union, politically, economically, and ideologically. In the age of digitization in which leadership is linked to technology, the competition for 6th generation networks may represent a new “race” that is taking shape, in the field of technology. To the extent that 6G technologies present scientific, economic and technological opportunities that are reflected in various sectors.