Telecommunications

Samsung's first 6G prototype demo taps into terahertz frequencies

Samsung's first 6G prototype d...
Samsung researchers Wonsuk Choi, Shadi Abu-Surra and Gary Xu, with the prototype 6G system
Samsung researchers Wonsuk Choi, Shadi Abu-Surra and Gary Xu, with the prototype 6G system
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Professor Mark Rodwell of UCSB, one of the researchers on the team responsible for the 6G prototype system
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Professor Mark Rodwell of UCSB, one of the researchers on the team responsible for the 6G prototype system
Samsung researchers Wonsuk Choi, Shadi Abu-Surra and Gary Xu, with the prototype 6G system
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Samsung researchers Wonsuk Choi, Shadi Abu-Surra and Gary Xu, with the prototype 6G system
The different components of Samsung's new 6G prototype: radio frequency circuits (left), the phased-array module (center), and the antenna array (right)
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The different components of Samsung's new 6G prototype: radio frequency circuits (left), the phased-array module (center), and the antenna array (right)
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It may feel like 5G networks are only just finding their feet and becoming mainstream, but the march of technology rarely rests. The next iteration, 6G, is already in the works, and Samsung has now demonstrated its first 6G prototype 6G system in an over-the-air test, using terahertz (THz) frequencies.

As you’d expect, the main advantage of 6G is faster data rates and lower latencies. The peak data rate is expected to eventually be up to 50 times faster than 5G, pushing it into the range of terabits per second. Latency, meanwhile, is expected to drop to just one-tenth that of 5G, and together these advances should help the tech transmit much more data-intensive content, such as 8K resolution, VR and holographic video.

Currently, 5G communications operate at frequencies up to about 40 GHz, but 6G would push that beyond 100 GHz, tapping into the as-yet-unutilized THz spectrum. The new tech would also give a boost to bandwidth too, which for 5G tops out at around 400 MHz.

For the new test, researchers at Samsung and the University of California, Santa Barbara demonstrated a system with 140 GHz frequency and a bandwidth of 2 GHz. In doing so, they managed to transmit data at 6.2 Gbps over a distance of 15 m (49 ft).

That’s a decent step up from 5G’s speed record of 5.23 Gbps, and even that was with the help of some 4G frequencies in a mostly experimental setup. But still, it’s far short of what 6G could eventually be capable of – data transfer rates of up to 1 Tbps, which is 1,000 Gbps.

The different components of Samsung's new 6G prototype: radio frequency circuits (left), the phased-array module (center), and the antenna array (right)
The different components of Samsung's new 6G prototype: radio frequency circuits (left), the phased-array module (center), and the antenna array (right)

The system consists of a phased array transmitter with 16 channels, receiver modules, and a baseband unit that processes signals and helps direct the beam towards the receiver.

The new test may sound exciting, but don’t throw away your fancy new 5G phone just yet – 6G isn’t expected to be commercially available until about 2030.

The team demonstrated the new 6G device at the IEEE International Conference on Communications 2021.

Source: Samsung

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4 comments
4 comments
Brian M
No mention of range - its probably going to be very short!
aki009
I'm not as excited about 6G as I am about high volumes making those steerable phased arrays inexpensive. All kinds of new devices with sensing capabilities would be enabled by that, including the motion tracker from Aliens (and it'd be even better than the movie makers envisioned).
EJ222
TIL there's a 140GHz absorption window in the atmosphere.


There's no way that can go through solid objects though. This has to be strictly line of sight, right? Heck, I'm wondering how it will penetrate the skin of a smartphone.
Daishi
@Brian M, the range of the test was listed at 15 m (49 ft). It's likely capable of slower speeds at slightly greater ranges but you guys are right to question the limitations of the frequency range. I guess it is sort of the intention to push mobile technology to smaller and smaller "cells" of coverage to allow faster speeds and better frequency re-use but at at the point that the technology has less range than Wi-Fi it's harder to see the point. At these ranges it's more of a competing solution to WiFi than anything suitable for mobile infrastructure. Supporting those speeds will need a fiber backhaul so you will need to be 15 m (49 ft) from fiber or copper to achieve them. WiFi 6E (using 6 Ghz spectrum) will already achieve these speeds at greater distance and by the time this becomes viable it will be competing with faster line-of sight home networking technologies like future version of Li-Fi.