With 5G becoming a point of national prestige for China, research into the sixth-generation mobile technology is heating up
With the Trump administration extending the US ban on Huawei for another year, 5G is growing as a proxy battlefield for what is becoming more and more frequently described as a technological Cold War. The Chinese government recently made the fifth-generation technology a priority for the nation’s telcos, with a swathe of new agreements being signed this year to ensure their future dominance. The US, for their part, continues to pressure other countries around the world to join them in blacklisting companies like Huawei, while scrambling to come up with viable alternatives to the Chinese giants. Now, China Unicom and ZTE are teaming up to ensure that Chinese dominance in mobile technology continues into the 6G era. The cooperation agreement announced yesterday means that the two companies will be researching 6G technologies together, as well as collaborating on future standards. What exactly 6G technology will look like is not yet clear. Naturally, it will bring with it greater speeds, as well as enhancing some of 5G’s exciting new technologies, such as AI, VR, and AR. However, many believe the technology can go even further, bridging the gap between man and machine by providing permanent AR overlays with its near-zero latency, AI-optimised connectivity. Currently, researchers suggest that 6G technology will not see deployment until 2030, but this could be a best case scenario, given the research’s infancy. China is not the only country to be actively developing 6G. Indeed, countries like Japan, Korea and Finland all have research projects underway into the new technology, though none of these boast the financial backing of their Chinese counterparts. When it comes to 5G, China’s lead in deployment is clear. The nation boasts 85 million 5G customers, with the big three Chinese operators – China Unicom, China Telecom, and China Mobile – all greatly increasing their 5G investment in the past few years, in part as a result of increasing political tension.