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Apple, Google, among latest to join 6G alliance

The global 5G rollout is far from complete, but technology giants are already exploring the next-generation of connectivity

Joanna England
|Nov 17|magazine11 min read

The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) has announced a list of 11 members that together make up the Next G Alliance – a new organisation with the goal of advancing the development of 6G technology in North America.

The consortium of mobile technology leaders officially met for the first time on Monday, following the group’s formation to set the initiative's principle direction and strategy. 

Among the new members, who will drive innovations forward over the next decade for the North American mobile technology industry, are Google, Hewlett Packard, Cisco, Apple, Intel and LG Electronics, Keysight Technologies, MITRE, Mavenir and VMware. 

Other members include AT&T, Bell Canada, Ciena, Ericsson, Facebook, InterDigital, JMA Wireless, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm Technologies Inc., Samsung, T-Mobile, TELUS, Telnyx, UScellular and Verizon.

The alliance formation comes at a time when most vendors are only just rolling out technology that supports the 5G standard. However, Samsung revealed its 6G vision earlier this year, while Chinese multinational Huawei set out its plans for 6G back in 2019. Recently, the Chinese government also launched an experimental 6G satellite into space earlier this month.

In a statement released by ATIS in May, the Alliance said; “While the world is exploring opportunities that will light the path to 6G, the US must take timely and critical action to ensure unquestioned leadership in 6G innovation and development.”

The Next G Alliance will attempt to establish North American leadership in 5G and 6G development. Its work will encompass research and development, manufacturing, standardisation and market readiness.

“Our Founding Members represent leading industry stakeholders driving innovation in the mobile ecosystem,” said ATIS President and CEO Susan Miller. “As part of the Next G Alliance, they demonstrate their commitment to setting the course to advance North American mobile technology leadership into the future.”

Political concerns

But there are growing concerns that the political strife between the US and China could lead to an irreconcilable schism between 6G standards in the East and West. The technology is expected to enter commercial markets around 2030, but divisions may result in the US and Chinese versions of the technology that will not be interoperable.

However, ATIS is determined to avoid this scenario. Speaking about the US-Chinese tensions, ATIS CEO Susan Miller said, “Old models of leadership are not going to play in this new future in light of the geopolitical landscape. If the US is really going to assert its leadership, it's going to have to act in a new way.”

She said that technological developments were naturally fitting into much tighter time frames and that the time is right for the Alliance to create a roadmap for the next decade.

Miller explained that China’s forward-thinking strategy is another driving force of the Alliance. She said; “We know that, for example, in China, the government plays a very proactive role when it comes to what is going to be achieved with technology. Obviously, when we were building this whole initiative, we did some outreach in advance and there was that steady message of ‘it would be great if industry took the lead.’ So that helped us to know that we were on the right track in terms of industry leading versus government directing.”

Market leaders have also expressed concern that it will take a decade before operators like Verizon and AT&T fully implement their 5G networks across the country, ensure the technology operates on multiple spectrum bands and connects to the massive range of different kinds of devices. In other words, 6G would almost be replacing the 5G tech before the system has even been established

The notion that 5G is the “last G” was initially floated and then dismissed, as the Next G Alliance is determined to push forward with the plan that 6G will be commercially deployed by 2030, possibly spurned forward by China’s early start on the technology.

Miller believes working towards innovation is the best way forward. She said; “I think it is also fair to say that the industry has already moved beyond the basic research when it comes to 6G. What we are talking about relative to the Next G Alliance is really at the applied research focus.”

A leap forward

Mike Nawrocki, VP of technology and solutions for ATIS, believes the Next G Alliance will organise research, manufacturing, development activities and industry in market readiness for the commercialisation of the new technology. He also thinks 6G is a natural progression for the telecoms industry. 

He explained; “I guess the first thing is we see 6G really building on 5G. As you look at each successful mobile generation technology, you will notice less of a replacement model. In the future, you will see 6G infrastructure building on certain capabilities of 5G. As we talk about some of the enablers, you will see much more use of those capabilities.”

He added; “I guess the last point is I think we will increasingly see not just verticals relying on 6G, but much more integration across vertical markets. There will be less of a division between different vertical markets, like transportation, healthcare, energy, all those things really start to be woven together by 6G solutions.” 

Samsung is already working on 6G
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