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6G

Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, others form North American 6G alliance

Several top companies in the North American wireless industry – including all of the biggest wireless network operators – on Tuesday announced the new "Next G Alliance," an effort designed to focus on "the full lifecycle" of research and development, manufacturing, standardization and market readiness for 6G.

The founding members of the Next G Alliance are AT&T, Bell Canada, Ciena, Ericsson, Facebook, InterDigital, JMA Wireless, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Telus, Telnyx, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon. The group promised that additional members "will be forthcoming."

The development is important for a number of reasons.

First, it comes at the very beginning of the rollout of 5G. Many have argued that it will take up to ten years for operators like Verizon and AT&T to fully build out their 5G networks across the country, ensuring the technology works across multiple spectrum bands from both small and macro cell sites, connecting to a vast array of different kinds of devices. At one point some in the industry briefly floated the notion that 5G would be the "last G" – the formation of the Next G Alliance clearly dispels those ideas, and it reinforces the growing belief that 6G will be commercially deployed in the next eight to ten years.

Second, the Next G Alliance includes virtually every major 5G player in North America, including the three big US wireless network operators (AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile) and their three main equipment suppliers (Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung). Moreover, the Next G Alliance springs from a recent 6G "call to action" by ATIS, a North American trade association that has previously addressed topics including secure supply chains, robocalls and hearing aid compatibility for cell phones. Meaning, ATIS is often the place where major North American telecom companies go to solve real-world problems.

Third, it's yet another strong signal of a growing nationalism around 5G and 6G technological development. Although there has always been a certain degree of international competition in the wireless industry, such rhetoric has reached the stratosphere amid a growing trade war between the US and China. Indeed, ATIS specifically called out China's 6G moves as an impetus for its own actions around the technology.

Technological developments "are collapsing into much tighter time frames," explained ATIS President and CEO Susan Miller. She said it's time for the association to "create a roadmap for the next decade."

And Mike Nawrocki, VP of technology and solutions for ATIS, said that the new Next G Alliance will focus on a "full life cycle approach" to the development of 6G. He explained the alliance will work to organize research and development activities as well as manufacturing, standards development, market readiness, commercialization and customer adoption. In doing so, the alliance will necessarily have to engage with companies across the industry as well as with entities in academic and government circles.

Such comments are noteworthy in light of widespread complaints that 5G in the US has suffered from a disconnect between industry needs and government priorities.

ATIS' Nawrocki disagreed that the development of 5G in the US has been delayed or flawed. He also pointed out that the new Next G Alliance is so named so that it can focus on both 5G and 6G.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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