High-speed internet: How will India develop a 6G network?

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unveiled a vision document for rollout of 6G communications technology in India by 2030.

More on news: For regular users, 6G could be a huge opportunity. At present, the total annual purchase of smartphones is greater than 16 crore smartphones for about 30 crore Indian households, as per the vision document. This means that every household today is buying smartphones at an average of one phone every 2 years. A similar amount is being spent annually on two-wheelers, suggesting that an average Indian finds a personal smartphone as valuable, and necessary, as a personal vehicle.

Introduction to 6G

6G is the next generation of wireless technology that is currently in the research phase and is expected to be commercialized by 2030.

  • It is expected to offer faster speeds, higher capacity, and lower latency than the current 5G technology.
  • It is expected to use higher frequency bands than 5G, including terahertz frequencies, to achieve higher data rates.
  • 6G is also expected to be more energy-efficient than 5G, which will help to reduce the carbon footprint of wireless networks.
  • 6G is expected to enable a wide range of new applications, including augmented reality, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things.
FrequencyBelow 6 GHzBelow 6 GHz and up to 52 GHzUp to 1 THz
SpeedUp to 1 GbpsUp to 10 GbpsUp to 1 Tbps
Latency10-30 ms1-5 ms< 1 ms
Spectrum Efficiency2-3 bits/Hz3-4 bits/Hz30-40 bits/Hz
Network CoverageWide-area coverageWide-area and local coverageWide-area and local coverage
Use CasesMobile broadband, video streaming, online gamingAugmented reality, virtual reality, autonomous driving, smart citiesAdvanced augmented reality, virtual reality, holographic communications, brain-computer interfaces
Energy EfficiencyModerateBetter than 4GSignificantly better than 5G
StandardizationLTE, WiMax5G NRNot yet defined

Energy efficiency of 4G, 5G AND 6G

Energy efficiency refers to the amount of energy required to transmit data wirelessly, and it is an important consideration for mobile network operators due to the increasing demand for mobile data services and the need to reduce carbon footprint. 

Here’s a comparison of the energy efficiency of 4G, 5G, and 6G:

  • 4G: 4G technology is not very energy efficient. It consumes a relatively high amount of energy due to the use of multiple antennas and high-power transmitters. As a result, 4G networks have a high carbon footprint and are not sustainable in the long term.
  • 5G: 5G technology is more energy efficient than 4G due to the use of advanced antenna systems and improved signal processing techniques. 5G networks can also dynamically adjust their power consumption based on the number of connected devices and the data traffic. This leads to a reduction in energy consumption and a lower carbon footprint.
  • 6G: 6G technology is expected to be even more energy efficient than 5G. It will use advanced signal processing algorithms and will be able to dynamically adjust the frequency and power levels based on the specific requirements of each device. In addition, 6G will use high-frequency bands, such as terahertz frequencies, which require less energy to transmit data. As a result, 6G networks are expected to have a significantly lower carbon footprint than 4G and 5G networks.

Overall, the energy efficiency of wireless networks is improving with each new generation of technology, and 6G is expected to be the most energy-efficient wireless technology to date. 

Use cases of 6G

  • Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: 6G can enable more advanced and immersive AR and VR experiences, including real-time holographic communication and 3D mapping.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): 6G can support a massive number of connected devices, with ultra-low latency and high reliability, enabling a wide range of IoT applications such as smart cities, smart homes, and smart factories.
  • Autonomous Vehicles: 6G can enable highly reliable and low-latency communication between vehicles and the infrastructure, making it possible to achieve a fully autonomous transportation system.
  • Telemedicine: 6G can enable remote medical procedures, such as remote surgery, with ultra-low latency and high reliability, making it possible to provide medical services to patients in remote areas.
  • Environmental Monitoring: 6G can enable real-time monitoring of the environment, including air quality, water quality, and climate change, with a high level of accuracy and precision.
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs): 6G can enable the development of advanced BCIs, which can connect the human brain directly to the internet, enabling new forms of communication and control.

Overall, 6G has the potential to enable a wide range of applications that were previously impossible or impractical with existing wireless technologies, and it is expected to be a key enabler of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Concerns related to 6G 

  • High carbon footprint: while 6G promises growth, it will simultaneously have to be balanced with sustainability since most 6G supporting communication devices will be battery-powered and can have a significant carbon footprint, the document said.
  • Shared use of spectrum: The government will have to explore shared use of spectrum, particularly in the higher frequency bands for 6G. 
  • Captive networks: A reassessment and rationalisation of congested spectrum bands, and adoption of captive networks for Industry 4.0 and enterprise use cases will also have to be done.

What is India’s 6G roadmap?

  • Support to explorative ideas, risky pathways and proof-of-concept tests. Ideas and concepts that show promise and potential for acceptance by the global peer community will be adequately supported to develop them to completion, establish their use cases and benefits, and create implementational IPs and testbeds leading to commercialisation as part of phase two.
  • The 6G project will be implemented in two phases, and the government has also appointed an apex council to oversee the project and focus on issues such as standardisation, identification of the spectrum for 6G usage, create an ecosystem for devices and systems, and figure out finances for research and development, among other things.
  • Exploring opening up a few bands to generate demand (for example 450-470 MHz, 526-612 MHz, 31-31.3 GHz, etc.). This requires initiating a new inter-ministerial process of repurposing several bands like that has been done earlier.
  • To fund research and innovation on 6G, the vision document on 6G has recommended the creation of a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore to facilitate various funding instruments such as grants, loans, VC fund, fund of funds, etc. for the next 10 years. 
  • To decide on standardisation around 6G and related technologies, the document called for India to take on a greater role in various international bodies such as 3GPP, ITU, IEC, and IEEE.

What is India’s immediate action plan?

  • The government has set up a Bharat 6G project and appointed an apex council to oversee the project and focus on issues such as standardisation, identification of the spectrum for 6G usage, create an ecosystem for devices and systems, and figure out finances for research and development, among other things.
  • The apex council will facilitate and finance research and development, design and development of 6G technologies by Indian start-ups, companies, research bodies and universities. It will aim to enable India to become a leading global supplier of intellectual property, products and solutions of affordable 6G telecom solutions and identify priority areas for 6G research based on India’s competitive advantages.
  • A key focus of the council will be on new technologies such as Terahertz communication, radio interfaces, tactile internet, artificial intelligence for connected intelligence, new encoding methods and waveforms chipsets for 6G devices.

UPSC PYQ (2019)

With reference to communication technologies, what is/are the difference/differences between LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution)?

    1. LTE is commonly marketed as 3G and VoLTE is commonly marketed as advanced 3G.

    1. LTE is data-only technology and VoLTE is voice-only technology

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

    1. 1 only

    1. 2 only

    1. Both 1 and 2

    1. Neither 1 nor 2

Prelims Practice Question

With reference to the 6G technology, consider the following statements:

    1. 6G networks can offer much faster data transfer speeds than 5G, allowing for near-instantaneous downloads and uploads.

    1. 6G networks will enable the development of new applications and technologies, such as holographic communication and immersive virtual reality experiences.

    1. 6G networks will require less infrastructure to achieve the same coverage as 5G networks, reducing costs and improving network efficiency.

Which of the above statements are correct?

    1. 1 and 2 only

    1. 2 and 3 only

    1. 1 and 3 only

    1. 1, 2, and 3

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