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Going beyond 5G

TVBEurope meets InterDigital Europe VP Alan Carlton on the road to 6G

InterDigital started work on 5G as long ago as 2010 – well before anyone within the broadcast industry was even thinking about use cases. In 2020, the company will once again be well ahead of the curve, demonstrating its catalogue of next-generation solutions. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there is still a lot of work, and releases, along the road for 5G. Alan Carlton, VP, InterDigital Europe, says any discussion around 6G has to start with what he terms ‘beyond 5G.’ “My first exposure to the beyond 5G terminology was in European research circles,” he explains. “There was a lot of head scratching when 5G standardisation accelerated very, very fast, so the terminology of beyond 5G research and development began.”

Carlton says there’s currently a lot of noise and hype around the 5G standard, despite it barely being established as a first complete standards package, blessed by the ITU (IMT-2020). This will not happen until at least June of this year. The next phase will be around releasing new revisions of the standard.

“The work done to date basically constitutes all the work done up to and including the 3GPP Release 16. That is the minimum bar to meet the IMT-2020 requirements,” explains Carlton. “So, what I always say when we start talking about beyond 5G, is that for us it starts with Release 17, Release 18. In our minds we break up the beyond 5G to 6G roadmap and we reckon there’ll be about seven to eight releases of 5G in front of us.” Carlton goes on to explain that the team at InterDigital see the B5G roadmap along the lines of a short-term evolution, a mid-term evolution and a long-term evolution of 5G. “At some point in that long-term evolution we may hit a breaking point, although some breaking points in 5G may be evident now,” he adds. “But we don’t expect to see that happening until around 2030, or even longer. There’s an awful lot of life and evolution of 5G.”

Already, there is a lot of chatter around 6G, helped somewhat when the United States president announced he wanted to see 6G working alongside 5G “as soon as possible.” According to Carlton, however, Mr Trump isn’t likely to realise that dream before he leaves office. “What we’re seeing at the moment is the beginning of the research thrusts into 6G. There’s another seven years of research activities that are starting now. InterDigital recently joined a programme in Finland called 6G Flagship which has the title 6G, but I’d describe most of their work as beyond 5G/6G research, looking at where we go with the evolution of 5G over the next 10 years or so.”

Read the full interview in the latest issue of TVBEurope.