Tech

China starts development of 6G, having just turned on its 5G mobile network

Key Points
  • China has officially launched research and development work for its 6G mobile networks. The country only just turned on its 5G networks earlier this month, ahead of an initial 2020 schedule.
  • To be clear, 5G is still in its infancy with most people around the world are still on 4G networks.
  • Vice Minister Wang Xi of the Ministry of Science and Technology said 6G is in the "initial stage" but the country must attach "great importance" to the technology.
A Chinese mobile phone user in Shanghai, China.
Qi Yang | Moment | Getty Images

China has officially launched research and development work for 6G mobile networks, having only just rolled out 5G.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement posted Wednesday, that it will set up two working groups to carry out the task.

One group will consist of relevant government departments responsible for promoting how 6G research and development will be carried out. The other team will be made up of 37 universities, research institutes and enterprises, which will lay out the technical side of 6G and offer advice.

5G refers to next-generation mobile networks that offer super-fast data speeds that promise to support technologies like driverless cars and virtual reality. China turned on its 5G networks earlier this month ahead of an initial 2020 schedule.

To be clear, 5G is still in its infancy with most people around the world are still on 4G networks.

While there is a lot of hype around 5G, it is still unclear what kind of impact 5G might have on industries and consumer beyond fast download speeds in reality.

South Korea is the only other country with a nationwide rollout of 5G besides China. Countries like the U.K. and U.S. have had a much more limited rollout, often focused on a handful of cities.

Long way to go for 6G

Meanwhile, 6G is still a long way off. Vice Minister Wang Xi of the Ministry of Science and Technology said 6G is in the "initial stage, the technical route is still not clear, and the key indicators and application scenarios have not been standardized and defined."

In September, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said that while the company is working on 6G technology, it is still in an "early phase" and there's "a long way to go" before commercialization.

Mobile networks, particularly 5G, have become a politicizied topic between the U.S. and China. Huawei, the world's largest telecommunications equipment maker, has been in the crosshairs of the U.S. Washington has accused the Chinese firm of being a national security risk, claiming its gear could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. Huawei has repeatedly denied these claims.

Huawei is also on a U.S. blacklist that restricts its access to American technology and Washington has tried to convince other countries to bar Huawei from their 5G networks.

Still, China is pushing on with 6G as it sees the technology being of great importance in the future.

"In this critical period of national development, we must attach great importance to the 6G development, coordinate its planning, promote it with efficiency, and open up for innovation in this area," Wang said.

— CNBC's Hilary Pan contributed to this report.

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