With 5G wireless networks barely developed and implemented, the race towards the 6th generation network has already begun – and South Korea is once again among the leaders. 6G networks are expected to hit the market around 2030 and with a speed at least 10 times faster than its predecessor.
South Korea has been dubbed a 5G pioneer, being the first country in the world to launch commercial 5G service and extending it to nationwide coverage with approx. 45% of the population having a 5G subscription.
The roll out is impressive, but the full potential of 5G is yet to be achieved. However, South Korea has already entered the race to develop 6G technologies.
As 6G wireless technology is still in development, describing the technology and potential use is somewhat theoretical. However, 6G is described “as a fully integrated, internet-based system that allows for instantaneous communications between consumers, devices, vehicles, and the surrounding environment”.
6G networks are expected to use higher frequency bands and cloud-based networking technology to deliver record-breaking speeds and microsecond latency, and thus be more than 10 times faster than 5G wireless networks. Some projections predict that it might reach one terabit per second (100 times faster than the hypothetical top speed of 5G).
Fast telecommunication is central to the everyday lives of people. However, the greatly increased speed of 6G networks does not intend to make it easier to talk, game or stream while on the road or enhance the quality of virtual meetings across the globe. 5G – or even 4G - is more than enough to meet those demands.
6G networks are expected to manage complex demanding processes and services and will be dedicated to the need to connect machines and potentially enable the internet of everything. It will bring new opportunities for connected technologies within fields such as smart cities, smart factories, immersive technologies, autonomous vehicles, digital healthcare and remote surgery. Examples on 6G use cases were presented in a whitepaper by the Next Generation Mobile Networks in February 2022, and among others include the following applications:
The South Korean government played a significant role in the development and roll-out of 5G networks with public investments and tax credits. This also holds true for the development of 6G.
In 2021, the government announced a 5-year plan to develop core technologies for 6G telecommunication. The aim is to launch the first pre-standard 6G network in 2026 and the world’s first commercialization of 6G mobile telecommunication in 2028.
Samsung Electronics plays a key role in the development of 6G technologies. In a 2020 white paper, Samsung Electronics laid out its vision for 6G, which is elaborated in a white paper on 6G Spectrum from 2022. Samsung Electronics has announced a plan to invest US$ 355B over the next five years in strategic sectors, including 6G telecommunications. It has not been revealed how much of the investments will go towards 6G technologies.
Another important conglomerate is LG Electronics. As LG Electronics is leaving the mobile phone market, the company is focusing on the use of 6G technologies in a variety of businesses, including autonomous vehicles, robots and IoT-based smart devices.
Other major South Korean companies involved in the development of 6G includes telecommunication companies such as SK Telecom & KT.
6G research across the globe is still in its early stages as 5G technologies have yet to achieve their full potential. This is also the case in South Korea.
In 2019, LG established the LG-KAIST 6G Research Center in partnership with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and it was renewed in 2022. The research focuses on the development of the world’s first 27GHz bandwidth wideband beamforming solution.
Furthermore, Samsung Electronics has entered into collaboration with Korea University on the research and development of next-generation technologies such as 6G.
In 2021, the Korean government established 6G research centres at three universities: KAIST, Sungkyunkwan University and Korea University.
As 6G is still in development and requires substantial public and private R&D investments, the market for start-ups is not obvious. The sector is highly dominated by government initiatives, big telecommunication companies such as KT and SK Telecom as well as big Korean conglomerates.
However, the start-up community could be of vital importance to the eventual roll-out of 6G. Even though South Korea can boast of being the first country to launch the commercial roll-out of 5G, there is still a long way to go to achieve the full speed of 5G – simply because the need and demand doesn’t exist yet.
For private consumers, every day data requirements don’t justify the increased investments in advanced 5G technology. However, with the development of new technologies, machines and services that require increased connectivity speed and power, the demand for advanced 5G technologies or the fast roll-out of 6G might increase.
The South Korean national plan for development of core technologies for 6G telecommunication encompasses research investments of approx. US$ 195M by 2025. The 6G R&D implementation plan lays out detailed plans for becoming a global leader in 6G technology, and focuses on areas such as:
The public spending is supplemented by big investments from South Korean conglomerates that are active in telecommunication technologies.
Please reach out to Science & Innovation attaché Inie Nør Madsen at ICDK Seoul: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ICDK Seoul offers assistance to researchers, SMEs and corporates looking to dive further into the area of 6G development.