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.
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:
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.
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.
|First implementable 6G specification
|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