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Unleashing 6G’s immense power

The spectral vision for next generational wireless networks

6G spectrum and the road to extreme performance

Future 6G networks will enable a new immersive age of sensory and ubiquitously enriched digital experiences. Delivering the bandwidth and spectrum capabilities to realize this new powerful wireless generation will require deeper evolution of the spectrum blueprint. This includes redefining today’s spectrum grid, but also exploring new frequency bands in the cmWave and sub-THz ranges.

6G spectrum explained

6G will comprise a broad multi-layered fusion of spectrum spanning today’s existing grid of low-, mid- and millimeter wave bands (mmWave), and underpinned by new frequency bands in the crucial centimetric wave (cmWave) range, with high capacity and good coverage, and the complementary sub-terahertz (sub-THz) range, with extremely high data rates and wide bandwidth.

Spectral efficiency will continue to improve under 5G and 5G Advanced meaning markets can delay migrating to 6G spectrum until needed. However, with networks facing intense densification by 2030, it is expected that having the right amount of spectrum in the different ranges at the right time will be crucial to ensuring a seamless step change from 5G Advanced to future 6G networks.

Spectrum range for future radio access

Exploring 6G spectrum requirements

Early designs for 6G spectrum are being driven by expected demands on future mobile networks beyond 5G Advanced. This includes anticipated 6G use cases that are expected to require more capacity and coverage than those of the 5G era.

The ongoing exponential growth of data traffic is another key driver. This means additional spectrum will be crucial to ensure continued cost-efficient support for existing mobile use cases such as mobile broadband, fixed wireless access (FWA), and mixed reality.

Ericsson’s 6G white paper, identifies six key use case areas that we believe will shape mobile networks and spectral requirements beyond 2030:

Growing from 5G to 6G

Growing from 5G to 6G

Immersive communication

The expected commercial breakthrough of holographic communication will demand high data rates with significant spectrum suitable for wide-area coverage. The gradual evolution to the Internet of Senses, adding multisensory elements such as touch, taste and smell, will further increase demands on both data rates and capacity.

Global broadband

Mobile broadband services are forecast to contribute significantly to an exponential rise in data traffic in coming years. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, total global mobile data traffic is forecast to grow by a factor of 3.5 to reach 329 EB (472 EB including FWA services) per month in 2028. Additional spectrum will be crucial to ensure continued cost efficiency and performance of these services beyond 5G Advanced.

Omnipresent IoT

Smart cities in the 6G era will be powered by massive digital twinning that depends on continuous omnipresent data collection. While data rates for each sensor may be modest, the aggregated capacity demands of all sensors and devices will present new challenges in terms of available bandwidth and wide-area spectrum.

Integrated sensing

New 6G-enabled services such as integrated radio-based sensing will also place new capacity demands on future networks. With new inherent capabilities to obtain and provide spatial information about its surrounding environment, such services will be key to advancing use cases such as autonomous vehicles in the 6G era.

Critical services

6G will push beyond the technical limits of 5G and move deeper into critical services including smart manufacturing with collaborating robots, remote operations, public safety, and other services supporting critical society functions. This will place new demands on the network and spectral resources, requiring very low and predictive delays, guaranteed quality of service, high availability and high resilience to network disturbances.

Compute-AI services

Future 6G services, including immersive communication and distributed computing, demand extensive spectrum with good capacity due to the need for efficient offloading and processing, enabling richer applications on lightweight devices, particularly in the context of integrated AI and compute services.

Choosing 6G frequencies: how it works and what to expect

Reusing today’s spectrum grid is the starting point for any spectral evolution beyond 2030 and will be key to reduce the number of new sites, costs, and power consumption.

However, 6G use cases will likely require around 3 GHz of additional wide-area spectrum, something that is not likely to be fully accommodated using today’s grid. To mitigate this shortfall and achieve the required performance of future use cases, the cmWave range between 7-15 GHz has emerged as the optimal complement to today’s grid, combining good coverage, especially at the lower edge, with reasonably large bandwidths.

For specific future use cases where extreme data rates or low latency in local areas are required, the sub-THz range between 90-300 GHz presents an optimal solution, serving up vast amounts of spectrum with very high data rates.

CmWave: 7 – 15 GHz

CmWave bands will be essential for future 6G networks. With close proximity to today’s mid-band range, they offer good propagation characteristics for use cases that require wide-area coverage with high capacity.

Sub-THz: 90 – 300 GHz

With the unique ability to serve up very high data rates, sub-THz communication can enable the extreme speeds and low latencies required to enable the most demanding 6G use cases such as professional high-resolution holographic communication and machine-to-machine interaction. Sub-THz bands are likely to be deployed only in certain deployment scenarios.

Licensing and deployment challenges: What to expect

Choosing which bands and how much spectrum to allocate for 6G takes place on a global and/or regional level, and requires cooperation between several stakeholders, including network vendors, service providers, regulators, and research organizations.

Learn more about the pathway to 6G spectrum

Harmonizing national- or regional approaches

Access to spectrum can be achieved in different ways, such as through the ITU World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC), regional decisions, or decisions on a national level.

Global harmonization of 6G frequency ranges and technical specifications play a critical role in enabling worldwide interoperability, service continuity and economies of scale that have characterized the mobile industry for many decades. The ITU WRC remains the preferred alternative for this today.

Timeline for 6G spectrum

The ITU road to defining which bands to allocate, and how much, begins with the defining of an agenda item at WRC-23 that proposes IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications) identification for preferred 6G frequency bands. This will be agreed upon at the following conference, WRC-27. Prior to WRC-27, the ITU will conduct studies and prepare its assessment.

Learn more about the timeline and process for defining 6G spectrum in our 6G spectrum white paper.

Year 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031
3GPP Release REL-18 (RAN) REL-19 (RAN) REL-20 (RAN) REL-21 (RAN) REL-22 (RAN) REL-23 (RAN)
First implementable 6G specification
ITU-R activities WRC-23: Discussions on agenda items for IMT identification at WRC-27 ITU-R shares studies towards a potential IMT identification decision at WRC-27 Decision on IMT identification of specific bands at WRC-27 National regulators decide which frequencies to release, and begin licensing process (pre- or post-WRC-27).
Early deployments on new frequencies are expected around 2030

Above: Timeline for defining spectrum for 6G and the first 3GPP 6G standard.

Dive deeper into 6G spectrum

6G is the hot topic of discussion across ICT and academia, and spectrum is pivotal to that. In Ericsson’s 6G white paper, find out how today’s and tomorrow’s spectrum bands can combine to unleash a limitless 6G experience.

Learn more

Research insights about 6G spectrum

Global research takeaways

Our experts summarize the most important takeaways from early 6G research across industries, academia, and all parts of the world – including spectrum.

Research outlook towards 6G

Our foundational white paper on 6G outlines our vision for the world beyond 2030, including what networks should be able to deliver and what candidate technologies should be developed to get there.

Stay informed on the latest 6G research

Ericsson has a long history of playing an active role in standards development and taking leadership roles in various forums. We are strong believers that the early phase of research should be precompetitive in nature, enabling close collaboration with academia and within the industry, leading to openly available published outcomes.

Learn more about 6G

What is 6G?

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Why it’s time to talk 6G

Dive into our 6G blog series where Ericsson’s experts guide us through the coming years and summarize the challenges that we can expect on the way.

The importance of spectrum for wireless connectivity

Learn more about the spectrum journey from a public policy and governmental affairs perspective.

Joint sensing and communication for 6G

Take a closer look at what joint communication and sensing (JCAS) means, both in terms of potential use cases as well as technical challenges and opportunities.

Our 6G spectrum vision

From today’s existing spectrum to new frequency ranges, our experts break down the pieces of the 6G spectrum puzzle.

Why cmWave can be the powerful enabler of 6G

Find out why cmWave bands are emerging as an attractive frequency range for 6G services.