Forget 5G — what is 6G and 7G connectivity?

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PHILADELPHIA — While 5G networks are still rolling out across the world, some people are already looking further. Telecom companies have started developing the next generation of mobile connectivity, sparking talk of 6G and even 7G networks.

By the end of 2020, there were only 217 million 5G subscriptions worldwide, according to a study from Ericsson. Still, innovators and eager consumers have set their eyes on 6G and beyond. While these networks may still be years away, they’ll likely have significant implications for technologies such as self-driving vehicles.

What is 6G? The short answer is that it’s the next generation of mobile networks, just as 5G succeeded 4G, and 7G will likewise come after 6G. Just as 5G offers higher speeds and lower latency than 4G, 6G promises improvements over 5G.

What those improvements look like is less certain. Samsung has demonstrated the possibilities. In June, it said researchers achieved speeds 50 times faster than current 5G — 5.23 gigabits per second. With further development, 6G could provide even faster speeds in some areas.

6G networks likely will work differently than 5G. As the illustration on this page suggests, 6G could use reflected short-range signals to dissipate to nearby connected devices. This would support more devices in an area than 5G’s more-direct signals, with lower latency, too.

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