1G refers to the first generation of analogue cellular networks introduced in the 1980s. It offered basic voice calling capabilities and had limited capacity for simultaneous calls. The technology used in 1G networks included Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) and Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT).
On its part, 2G, introduced in the early 1990s, marked the transition from analogue to digital cellular networks. It brought significant improvements in voice quality, capacity, and security.
The key 2G technologies were Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). 2G networks also introduced text messaging (SMS) and basic data services like Wireless Application Protocol (WAP).
3G networks emerged in the early 2000s and provided faster data transmission along with improved voice communication. It introduced technologies such as Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) and CDMA2000. With 3G, mobile devices gained the ability to access the internet at reasonable speeds, enabling services like video calling, mobile internet browsing, and multimedia streaming.
Not much later, 4G networks were deployed in the late 2000s and offered significant improvements in data speeds, capacity, and overall performance. The main technologies for 4G were Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMAX. 4G provided faster download and upload speeds, low latency, and supported advanced services like high-definition video streaming, online gaming, and Voice over IP (VoIP).
5G is the latest generation of mobile communication technology. It began rolling out in the 2010s and continues to expand globally. 5G networks promise faster speeds, lower latency, higher capacity, and the ability to connect a massive number of devices simultaneously.
They use advanced technologies like millimetre waves, massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO), and network slicing. 5G enables applications such as ultra-high-definition streaming, real-time cloud gaming, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and the IoT.
Each subsequent generation has brought significant advancements in terms of speed, capacity, and capabilities, enabling new services, and transforming the way we communicate and interact with technology.
Research and development
Research and development efforts for 6G are underway in various parts of the world. Although specific countries and organisations are actively engaged in exploring 6G, it's important to note that the development of 6G is a global endeavour, and collaboration between international entities is likely.
Some countries have shown significant interest and have initiated research programmes in 6G. China has been actively involved in 6G research and development. Chinese technology companies, academic institutions, and government entities have launched projects and formed partnerships to drive 6G innovation.
South Korea has been at the forefront of mobile communication technology, including 5G, and has already initiated research on 6G. The South Korean government, research institutions, and telecommunications companies are investing in 6G development.
In the United States, both industry and academia have shown interest in 6G. Companies like Qualcomm, AT&T, and Verizon have been involved in 6G research. Additionally, research institutions and universities across the country are actively studying and exploring 6G concepts.
The European Union has also recognised the importance of 6G and has launched research initiatives to foster its development. Various European countries, including Finland, Germany, Sweden, and France, are involved in 6G research and collaborations.
Japanese companies and academic institutions have been investing in 6G research. The Japanese government has set up initiatives to promote 6G development and aims to showcase 6G technology during the Osaka World Expo in 2025.
Given the rapid advancements in mobile communication technologies and the global interest in 6G, countries and organisations in the Arab world are also exploring and considering their involvement in 6G development and adoption.
Many countries in the region, especially GCC states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have been actively deploying and adopting 5G networks, indicating their commitment to staying at the forefront of telecommunications technology.
Read more: How the Arab world is adopting a proactive approach to AI
6G's impact on economic sectors
Based on the potential advancements expected with 6G, it's possible to speculate on some potential impacts on economic sectors. In communication and connectivity 6G, as mentioned earlier, is expected to offer significantly faster speeds, lower latency, and higher capacity than 5G.
This enhanced connectivity could have a transformative effect on sectors that heavily rely on communication and data transfer, such as telecommunication, IoT, autonomous vehicles, remote healthcare, and virtual reality. Faster and more reliable connections could lead to innovative applications and business models in these sectors.
6G's low latency and high reliability could enable more advanced automation and robotics in manufacturing processes. This could lead to increased productivity, improved efficiency, and cost reductions in industrial settings. The ability of 6G to support real-time communication and control could facilitate the development of advanced robotics and autonomous systems.