Wireless connectivity has become such an integral part of society that top industry players have already started exploring the path to mobile networking’s sixth generation. Pioneering wireless technologies beyond 5G has become a prime focus for many enterprises who want to be the first to deliver what prior mobile generations could not. A new survey by Telecoms.com Intelligence on the expectations of 6G, finds that increased demand and the ongoing transformation of cutting-edge technologies has given rise to challenges beyond 5G’s capabilities.

With more than 200 telecom industry respondents, many of whom work in engineering, development, and IT management, this survey highlights how many experts believe that mobile networking’s sixth-generation will usher in improved networking capacities, faster speeds, and more connected devices. In fact, about 50% have a strong overriding sentiment that 6G will be more of an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary generation to come after 5G. Over a quarter (27%) had a more bullish view, expecting 6G to offer fundamentally different solutions in selected domains.

When the 6G era arrives, more than half (51%) of industry experts believe that transformations will come in the form of budding technologies developing into new industry sectors, such as human-machine interaction. While others believe that 6G’s true capabilities lie in enhancing new industries, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics, or transforming traditional industries such as manufacturing and transportation.

As for commercialization, 44% expect to see the first commercial 6G service go live by 2028, with about half stating that standardization bodies would begin building out 6G standards in the next 4-5 years; the 2025-2026 timeframe. Some respondents (39%) believe it will take closer to ten years, with the first commercial service going live by 2030.

How can we speed up this process? Adopting 5G systems and solutions could bring mobile networking’s sixth-generation that much closer to cities and countries across the globe. However, telecom leaders have indicated that for this technology to come to fruition, significant improvements will need to be made in mobile network architecture.

According to a team in Queen’s University Belfast, 10 immediate engineering challenges need to be addressed at the physical layer to boost research and development in the 6G ecosystem. By pushing the communication to higher frequency bands such as millimeter wave (mmWave) and terahertz (THz), creating a smart radio environment through reconfigurable surfaces, and developing cell-free massive MIMO networks, 6G can address the shortcomings of 5G. According to the survey, operators will also need to increase the adaptability of networks, enhance end-to-end connectivity and embed devices in more locations if they want to enable the use cases envisioned for 6G.

The good news is that the telecom industry is already planning for improvements, but much of the reality may depend on what industries look like in 8-10 years. For now, it’s evident there’s a seismic shift happening as 5G increases our need for stronger communications and better use cases to improve our lives.

3G brought us better voice quality, 4G succeeded in giving us the smartphone revolution, and 5G enabled even faster connectivity. Will 6G become our true innovation platform? Learn more about what telecom industry leaders expect from 6G by reading the full Telecoms.com Intelligence survey report.

For more information on 5G and 6G, visit the IEEE Xplore Digital Library.