Over the last decade, the internet has become an integral part of life. With the development of new 6G (6th generation) technology, it’s starting to look like daily life will be built around the internet! We’ll take a closer look at how the 6G internet is expected to perform when it eventually arrives in Israel and who the leading players are in 6G research and development.
There have been a few transformational inventions in the history of the human race that enabled – or unleashed – rapid change. One was the invention of the printing press, and another was the development of electricity. The launch of the World Wide Web in 1990 also transformed life as we know it. By 1995 it played a growing role in communications and global businesses and has arguably been central to human communication since around 2000.
The internet has gone through several technical developments, most of which aren’t particularly relevant unless you’re an IT guru. But a couple of significant milestones were Web1.0, Web 2.0, and the mobile revolution. For the average internet user, the main issue has always been download speed and availability. First, fiber optics and broadband were a huge jump forward, and it became possible to download films and music in hours or minutes rather than days. The next big jump was broadband packages that allow live streaming and superfast downloads.
Most people don’t have (or want) any specialist knowledge when it comes to the technology behind the internet. It’s enough to find a reliable broadband provider who offers a good deal on home and mobile internet. So there isn’t really any pressing need to understand the science, but it is helpful to know what’s in the pipeline and how it could affect – and hopefully improve – our lives.
The internet ‘Gs’ – a quick explanation
The original internet technology was analog and is referred to as 0.G and 1.G. The earliest versions were around in 1979 but were experimental technologies. They were superseded by 2.G digital technology – a significant breakthrough – in the early 1990s, which provided the data technology for SMS text messages. Does anybody remember how amazing we used to think SMS messages were?
The 2G technology went through a couple of versions before 3G internet technology came out in 2001, providing us with mobile broadband. 4G came into existence around 2010 and opened the door to video conferencing, fast online gaming, and mobile TV. 5G is already being introduced in some countries and is super fast. Samsung and Apple have launched 5G smartphones with mixed reactions from consumers and reviewers. Although it could take several years to roll out and optimize global 5G networks fully, researchers and scientists are already thinking a generation ahead. 6G is under development and is predicted to be a game-changer.
Israel is one of the world’s high-tech centers and has an enviable reputation for technical innovation and development. For a small country, it’s punching well above its weight in the field of tech start-ups, R&D, and communication technology. However, Israel doesn’t have top-quality mobile internet speeds. Many internet users are also keen to get faster broadband at home. The government is aware of the issues and seems to be embracing the challenge of making Israel genuinely competitive in a high-tech global economy.
The Communications Ministry has planned a phased elimination of 2G and 3G technology and hopes to turn off the networks by the end of 2025. It will be illegal to import mobile devices that only support 2G and 3G networks from the New Year. By 2023, new devices that only support the old technology will not be able to connect to existing networks. Devices already connected will continue to receive coverage until the 5G networks are up and running in 2025 or 2026.
This is an ambitious plan, but many other countries are working on a similar schedule. The government is privately hoping that 5G pioneer countries like South Korea will smooth out all the difficulties and share their hacks. The phased transition will hopefully mean that the average Israeli will get a significantly improved internet service without spending a lot of money on new mobile phones. As the 5G technology becomes mainstream, the price of supporting devices should fall.
The simple answer is that 6G will be exponentially faster and smarter than 5G. It will possibly offer near-universal network coverage and could revolutionize how we do… pretty much everything. To put things in perspective, 5G is expected to allow you to download an entire full-length movie in Bluray format in a split second. 6G is predicted to be 1,000 times faster than that!
But that’s really all we know, and it is just speculation. 5G is still being rolled out, and most Israelis won’t have it before 2025 – and that’s if you believe the government predictions. If 5G is anything like its predecessors, we’ll see it evolve through a couple of versions as improvements are introduced.
At the moment, only a relatively small number of devices are regularly connected to the internet. For the most part, these are our PCs, laptops, cell phones, and other mobile devices. If 5G performs as expected, it’s likely that most of our household devices, cars and commercial vehicles, military hardware, industrial and agricultural processes, and every other aspect of life will be controlled online. The world may soon seem unrecognizable to anybody who grew up before the internet became a mainstream technology.
Another expected feature of 6G is ultra-low latency. This simply means the amount of time between a cause and effect. For example, if you click send on a Whatsapp message, the amount of time it takes for the other person to receive the message is the latency. 4G offers a latency of around 50 milliseconds. 5G reduces this to 1 millisecond. Thus, 6G may be fast enough to make functional artificial intelligence into a viable reality.
If the projected 5G world sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, we can only imagine what the 6G world will look like. Or, if we’re honest, we probably can’t imagine it at all. Apart from anything, it’s impossible to predict what the new spin-off technologies will be, how our social attitudes will change, and what the 6G workplace or urban community will look like. A good example is the cultural transformation that social media and the 24-hour viral news culture created. The world is a very different place than it was before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Who knows how a new generation will experience the world when 6G wireless technology finally kicks in.
There seems to be a standard prediction that 6G is a decade away from being a viable reality. This seems to be a convenient way of saying that it’s under development, but we actually have a minimal idea when we’ll see a commercially available version. The first versions of 6G may be limited to military and government usage, with perhaps some commercial applications for ‘immersive entertainment.
There are also questions about how applicable 6G will be to ordinary consumers. 5G may represent a point where our day-to-day lives have been optimized and transformed to where few practical opportunities for innovation remain. Many people may be happy to stick with an upgraded 5G. It’s not inconceivable that we may even see a backlash against intrusive technology or lifestyles that become so well ordered that they are no longer challenging or satisfying. If the current predictions are correct, 6G won’t be much of a pressing issue before 2035. The current thinking is that it will slot into the 5G infrastructure, so we may not need major changes.
The short answer is that nobody really knows. If, as some people hope, 6G is 1,000 times faster than 5G. You need to be a genius to understand its true potential – and then you’ll just be guessing. For the rest of us, it’s enough to say that inconceivable amounts of data will be transferred within tiny time frames. 6G coverage will probably also allow precision positioning of remote devices – imagine a drone or robot that can be adjusted to within millimeters of a task.
It may be the universal coverage, rather than the super high speed of 6G, that has the most impact on our daily lives. Strategic 6G planners are already thinking about global coverage that includes all – or most – remote and rural areas. Coverage may penetrate a significant distance below the surface of the sea and into space. It may become economically viable to mine the seabed or build inhabitable space stations this century.
It would be easy to dismiss 6G as speculative technology that sounds more like science fiction than reality. Part of the reason for this is that we can’t really envisage precisely how it will change our lives. What we can say is that we’ve seen a linear progression from the original 0.G and 1G analog technology in the early 1980s. Looking back, the technology seems almost stoneage – on a par with ZX81 computers and Pacman games – but at the time, it was the height of innovation.
Within a relatively short time, we saw most of the world connected and interconnected via the internet. We are all reachable – and trackable – at any time via our mobile phones and other devices. We have almost instant access to masses of data and can access almost every form of media. 5G is set to transform our lives on a new level. 6G in itself may not be a new technological revolution, but it may well enable one – or possibly several.
By 2035, the Western world will have a rapidly aging population. Health technology is improving fast, and theoretical life expectancy has improved. We are possibly within reach of cures for several previously fatal diseases. The potential applications of 6G in monitoring individual health care and medical and pharmaceutical R&D could be directly relevant to almost everybody alive today.
There is also a potentially sinister side to this new technology. Misused, 6G may allow totalitarian governments absolute control over every aspect of our lives. It could lead to a level of Big Brother surveillance and manipulation that George Orwell could never have dreamed of, particularly if it is combined with AI. On the plus side, 6G may enable the creation of technology that makes the systematic exploration of space a viable reality. 6G may be at least a decade away, but it is already directly relevant to our lives. For better or for worse, it may transform what it means to be a human being.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there is considerable military interest in 6G technology. Any army that can harness 6G may be able to leverage a significant strategic advantage. Space programs like NASA are also believed to be highly involved in 6G research and development, as they were in previous wireless technologies.
China is a major player in the development of 6G. Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE bid for 5G national infrastructure projects, as did the Swedish company Ericsson, Finnish rival Nokia and Korean conglomerate Samsung. The US is as determined as China to dominate both 5G and 6G development, and there is likely to be tough competition. The EU allocated €95 million to 6G R&D and allocated a proportion of these funds to Israel. The United Kingdom is pursuing independent 6G research as a continuation of its Quantum Technologies program.
It’s fair to say that every developed nation has a close eye on the progress of 6G. It’s a game-changing technology, and nobody wants to be left out. The rivalry may well lead to faster innovation and unexpected byproducts from the research. Some of the finest scientific and technical minds on the planet are now developing 6G tech. They have serious budgets and the ear of senior military figures and politicians.
There’s a lot of speculation and a certain amount of hype about 5G and 6G and their differences. It’s easy to dismiss a lot of the reports as clickbait stories or silly season journalism. Even if 6G itself isn’t immediately life-changing, the future technologies and discoveries that it enables definitely will be. If even half the predictions are correct, the next ten-twenty years are likely to be as radical and transformational as any in human history.