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China to pursue major standards-setting role in 6G mobile technology amid Chinese lab’s recent breakthrough

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China’s pro-6G digital economy blueprint marks the country’s latest move to help shape the next-generation mobile technology. Photo: Shutterstock

Beijing: China will boost support for 6G research and development and “proactively take part in setting international standards” for the sixth-generation mobile communications technology, according to Beijing’s latest digital economy plan.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, on Wednesday published this new digital economy development blueprint, which was drawn up in line with the country’s 14th five-year plan from 2021 to 2025. The sharpened focus on 6G reinforces a similar policy directive issued last month by the Cyberspace Administration of China.

6G represents the next-generation, global mobile network technology to succeed 5G, which is still being rolled out in many countries around the world. China, which has the world’s biggest internet and smartphone market, has also deployed the largest 5G mobile infrastructure in the industry.

China’s pro-6G digital economy blueprint marks its latest move to take a leading role in shaping advanced mobile technology development, following its success with 5G. In the 4G era, China championed one of the two sanctioned global standards. The country was not involved in 2G mobile development, but it later pushed to establish one of three globally-recognised standards for 3G.

The number of 6G patent applications has exceeded 38,000 globally, with submissions from China making up more than 30 per cent to rank first among all countries, according to a report in April last year by the China National Intellectual Property Administration, also known as the country’s patent office.

Last week, a research team of state-backed institute Purple Mountain Laboratories achieved a 6G-level wireless transmission speed of 206.25 gigabits per second for the first time in a lab environment, according to a statement on its website. The research team, which was supported by a special government 6G project, collaborated with Shanghai’s Fudan University and China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless network operator.

Some industry professionals, however, have indicated that 6G is still a decade away because the world has yet to agree on technical standards that would support 6G frequencies, signal modulations and waveforms.

“It’s a bit rushed to promote 6G development from an industry viewpoint,” said Wei Rong, an Beijing-based researcher with a government communication think tank. “But it might be appropriate for the central government to promote 6G scientific research for early preparation.”

The International Telecommunications Union, a specialised agency under the United Nations that shepherds the mobile communications standards process, has already invited external organisations to contribute to its recommendations for 6G, according to a report published in the ITU Journal on Future and Evolving Technologies in September last year.

The ITU said it plans to release the report “Vision of IMT beyond 2030”, with the accepted external recommendations, in June this year. IMT refers to international mobile telecommunications. The agency expects this report to “give the very general vision and guidelines for the global network of networks that 6G will be”.

China’s State Council, meanwhile, expects 5G applications to expand across various industrial sectors, including manufacturing, power grid and ports, according to the country’s new digital economy blueprint.