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Apple, Google start working on 6G

Weeks after the companies introduced their first 5G-capable devices, both Apple and Google announced they will join a North American trade group working on 6G.

The group – dubbed the Next G Alliance – will have its first meeting next week. It's fronted by ATIS, a North American trade association that has previously addressed topics including secure supply chains, robocalls and hearing aid compatibility for cell phones.

Apple and Google join Charter Communications, Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Keysight Technologies, LG Electronics, Mavenir, MITRE and VMware as the latest companies to join the Next G Alliance. The group's goal is to "advance North American mobile technology leadership in 6G and beyond over the next decade, while building on the long-term evolution of 5G."

AT&T, Bell Canada, Ciena, Ericsson, Facebook, InterDigital, JMA Wireless, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Telus, Telnyx, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon founded the association just last month.

Apple's newest iPhones and Google's newest Pixel devices – which both hit the market in recent weeks – are the vendors' first to support the 5G standard. However, neither company is the first phone maker to express interest in 6G: Samsung laid out its 6G vision earlier this year, while Huawei did so early last year.

The new Next G Alliance association stems from an effort within ATIS to formulate an organized, North American approach to the next generation of wireless technology beyond 5G. And ATIS' leadership is not shy about their reasoning: "While the world is exploring opportunities that will light the path to 6G, the US must take timely and critical action to ensure unquestioned leadership in 6G innovation and development," they wrote in a position paper earlier this year.

"Old models of leadership are not going to play in this new future in light of the geopolitical landscape," ATIS CEO Susan Miller told Light Reading in May, nodding to US-China tensions. "If the US is really going to assert its leadership, it's going to have to act in a new way."

The global wireless industry has already begun extensive work on 6G. Ericsson – one of the world's largest 5G equipment vendors – has already published a detailed vision of the technology that includes "Ready Player One"-type virtual reality services that include haptics and virtual tastes and sounds.

But there are growing concerns that the geopolitical posturing between the US and China could eventually fracture work on the 6G standard – expected to hit the commercial market around 2030 – thus creating a US version of the technology and a Chinese version of the technology that are not interoperable.

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

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