May 4, 2021
Melinda Head

The Quantum Leap of 6G

With 6G, science fiction could become science fact. IF we get it right. 5G ain’t gonna cut it, that’s a fact

We are on the precipice of change driven by massive advances in technology. I hate to rain on your parade, but 5G is not the be-all and end-all we’ve been waiting for since The Jetsons was launched in 1962, depicting the advent of cell phones, tablets, smart watches, video calls and virtual health care, 3D printed food, robots, drones and jetpacks. But 6G might be...

5G is a patch-work concept that has received a lot of hype and will under-deliver. Yes, 5G has been rolled out in a number of communities; however, as one industry expert says: “It’s kind of like having that super fast sports car and you’re stuck on the Santa Monica freeway”. I don’t believe that 5G is a super fast sports car, it’s more like an SUV that only travels to the grocery store, and never ventures off-road as it is supposed to. 5G is very much still a work in progress, dependent on which device you have, what band it supports, which network you’re on, where you are and what you’re doing. That is a lot of IFs.

"I really don't know what the hell 6G is.” (Kyle Malady, CTO, Verizon)

“It’s a little too early to talk about 6G.” (Erik Ekudden, CTO, Ericsson)

We need more leadership and disruption in this space, not Chief Technology Officers who are putting their heads in the sand. Or we’re all going to sprout gray hair before we get what we want and need.

Government, universities, research institutes and enterprises will undoubtedly take their sweet time to establish the technical aspects of 6G, as they have from the very beginning with the launch of 1G by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone in 1979, almost a half century ago. Although 5G has yet to be solidly entrenched, 6G is coming down the tracks to further satisfy our great impatience with technology. Let’s get it right this time. Now is the moment that could define our future and dramatically change our lives.

So what do we really need? What are we lusting for? What is needed to make a solid quantum leap into the future?

Let’s not worry about the 6G engineering geeks and their incomprehensible gobbledygook as they ponder the future. In layperson’s terms what we want is simple: speed and capacity, they are the foundation of everything. Ladies and gentlemen who sport those little metal rings on your pinkie fingers, please give this to us ASAP. We want instant and we want more – much, much more. We want those annoying spinning circles to go away forever. Please!!!

Let’s talk about speed. Speed is made up of 2 main components: 1. How fast you can perform tasks online; and 2. How many tasks can be performed simultaneously. Both of these depend on the network you are using to access the Internet, whether you are an individual jockeying for Internet use among multiple household members with multiple devices, or a mammoth-sized robotics-centric Gigafactory building electric cars for Tesla.

And what about capacity? The proper term is “bandwidth”, which is just a fancy word for the amount of data a network connection can handle at any given time. More bandwidth is better. We want much, much more bandwidth. We have started to produce huge amounts of data, more is yet to come. This data will fuel artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality … so much more. It will allow machines to become more cognitively-able, resembling or even surpassing the capacity of the 100 billion neurons found in the human brain that actually make up our own internal Internet and transmit information throughout our bodies.

One annoying element affects both speed and capacity, it’s called “latency”, or think of it as a lag or a delay. Even the human body suffers from latency, despite the 530,000 mile length of the brain’s neural network. Latency is the time that occurs between an action and a response, which is affected by 4 things with technical names that I’ll help you digest:

Transmission medium: the physical path over which data travels. For example, in the beginning, copper was used to transmit Morse Code data in 1844 (prior to the invention of the telephone in 1876), now it has been replaced by glass-based optical fiber, which is much faster. Some predict that air will be our future transmission medium – goodbye to cable choke chains!

Propagation: the distance between two connecting points through which data passes. There are a gazillion connecting points all over the world that make up the Web. Right now distances are long, which increases latency – we don’t want that!!!

Routers: the efficiency with which routers forward data between networks. Hopefully the dinosaur routers of today will be considered obsolete soon enough

Storage: stored data takes time to access and is under great pressure due to the tremendous amount of energy used by the ever-expanding Cloud, which doesn’t remotely resemble a cloud, it’s just a bunch of energy-consuming servers sitting in highly secured buildings, sometimes in odd places like Iceland. The 3 big boys with the largest market share in this business are: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. We need much faster access to these essential services and much more energy-efficient server farms as the need for storage continues to grow in leaps and bounds

The Citadel by Switch is North America’s largest data center. It also happens to be conveniently located right next to Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada

“It has been estimated that every human creates 1.7 MB of information each second.”

Data centers are under a lot of pressure to reduce their impact on the environment

The human brain has 100 billion neurons, whose job it is to transmit information throughout the body. Think of it this way, we each have our own personal Internet. Isn’t that amazing?


In a nutshell, these are some of the hurdles that must be overcome, unless a completely new vision comes to light and replaces current thinking. Will it happen? Only time will tell. In the meantime, don’t hold your breath that 5G will dramatically change our lives. Let’s set the bar higher for 6G, much higher. Do you have what it takes to be a disrupter? Please step up pronto. The world needs you.

Mr. Musk aka Super Geek and dancer extraordinaire, what do you have to say about 6G? We’d love to hear.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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