China plans early access to 6G networks in 2025.

By the end of the decade, mass commercial deployment of 6G networks by all major players will begin (photo: CC0 Public Domain)

China Unicom, one of China’s largest telecommunications operators, has announced that it will begin providing early access to 6G network services in 2025. The goal is to have a full commercial sixth-generation cellular network in the country by 2030, Liu said. Liehong, the company’s CEO, during the China Development Forum (CDF).

A lot of research is still needed to deliver next-generation cellular communication services – they need to solve application problems that are impossible or very difficult to overcome without pilot deployment on the ground. China Unicom will take no more than five years to refine the technology, SCMP noted.

The end of the current decade is seen as the beginning of the commercial deployment of 6G networks by all major players, including Samsung and LG. All of them, in one way or another, will start offering early access to select 6G applications ahead of the networks’ commercial rollout. South Korea, for example, hopes to have a working 6G project as early as 2028.

China Unicom has been actively developing 6G networks since 2019. The country’s other two largest cellular operators, China Mobile and China Telecom, are also conducting similar research and, in parallel, are ramping up the deployment of fifth-generation (5G) infrastructure. In general, China is leading in both directions – in the number of issued 6G patents and in deployed 5G base stations, the number of which exceeded 2.31 million units at the end of 2022.

In November 2023, the World Radiocommunication Conference, held every four years, is expected to lay the groundwork for establishing spectrum for 6G. Earlier this summer, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will present a set of recommendations on global mobile communications for 2030 and beyond.

These documents will help streamline the process of developing, manufacturing, deploying equipment and providing 6G services. However, practice shows that the world is in dire need of open standards in cellular communications to avoid dependence on the same manufacturer for years and decades to come.

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