What is 6G and When is it Coming?

6G will be the future’s next generation of cellular technology, and it could change (almost) everything about mobile internet.

Ben Gran
Jan 24, 2024
Icon Time To Read8 min read

If you’re a mobile phone user or home internet customer, you’ve probably heard of 5G, the newest and fastest generation of cellular technology. But did you know that there’s going to be another new G on the block? Plans are already underway for an even faster, more futuristic version of high-speed wireless internet. And it’s going to be called “6G.” 

Just as “5G” stands for “fifth generation,” “6G” is going to be the “sixth generation” of mobile internet standards and infrastructure. In the same way that mobile internet connectivity has gotten better and faster during the evolution of 2G to 3G to 4G to 5G, the future 6G technology is likely to be an even bigger step up. 

However, much is still unknown about what 6G will look like and how it will work. Technology experts are still in the early days of developing 6G capabilities. According to CNBC, technology executives believe that 6G might become commercially available in 2030. Until then, consumers will have to enjoy the high speeds and low latency of today’s existing 5G networks (if you can find 5G coverage near you). 

Let’s look closer at what 6G means, why it matters, how it compares to 5G and other cellular data service, and how it might provide better internet service for rural areas. Even though 6G is still in its early stages, it has the potential to open up more advanced ways for humanity to interact with the online world. 

5G internet providers you can get now

6G isn’t here yet, but 5G internet providers are. If you’re looking for a faster rural home internet option, check out the wireless internet providers below.

See more
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet$40.00—50.00/mo.*33–182Mbps average
Verizon Home Internet$35.00–$80.00/mo.25–1,000Mbps advertised

*w/Autopay and qualifying mobile plan.

What is 6G?

6G cellular technology is still in the research stages. But when it becomes available, perhaps in 2030, it has the potential to be the fastest form of mobile internet and cellular data communication. According to Nokia Bell Labs, which is one of the research organizations developing 6G, the new 6G networks will enable even greater connectivity between the digital, human, and physical worlds. 

6G will make connectivity faster, lower-cost, and more energy-efficient than ever. As described by Northeastern University, by using the sub-Terahertz band of high-frequency radio waves, 6G could offer faster data transmission and lower latency than even the fastest existing 5G technology. But 6G will be more than just “faster mobile internet”—it will change the way that people and organizations use the internet. 

Possible uses for 6G listed by Nokia Bell Labs include the following: 

  • Gesture and voice control (instead of touchscreen typing)
  • Connected devices embedded in clothing or on skin patches 
  • 24/7 wearable devices for healthcare monitoring 
  • Digital cash and keys 
  • “Digital twins” for smart factories to make advanced models to replicate and visualize the physical world with digital tools 

Smartphones aren’t going away anytime soon, but 6G could bring a new wave of innovation in the types of devices and applications that connect to the internet and that use cellular data. In the same way you don’t blink an eye at constantly being connected via your smartphone, 6G is likely to make the internet faster, more immersive, and more ever-present. And——hopefully—more helpful in solving human problems.

Why does 6G matter?

So much about 6G is still in the early, research-based, speculative phases. So it’s hard to say for sure what 6G will do and how it will change everyday life. But technology experts are already making a few predictions for how 6G could make a big impact on humanity and the way we work and communicate.

As described by Nokia, here are a few technology areas that are likely to see big innovation in the future of 6G:

  • New radio bandwidth: 6G would require an expansion of wireless technology into new higher-frequency bandwidths of the radio spectrum, including the Terahertz band. 6G’s frequencies would include low band (460–694 MHz), mid-band (7–20 GHz), and sub-Terahertz for peak data rates higher than 100 Gbps (gigabits per second). 
  • AI and Machine Learning: 6G networks would be optimized by AI and machine learning to reduce complexity and improve network performance. 
  • Cognitive network: The 6G network would be connected to so many millions of devices, getting information constantly from all directions, to the point that the network itself could “sense” and react to any information or effects, bringing us closer to true AI responses. 
  • Extreme connectivity: Since 6G would have much higher bandwidth, faster speeds, and lower latency, it would be possible for smart video sensors to be deployed in all kinds of situations, and connected devices could talk to each other more quickly. This constant, high-speed connectivity would make faster, more reliable video communications and would open up new experiences for holograms or real-time digital twins (visual modeling for manufacturing and product design). 

There are many ways that 6G’s hyper-fast connectivity could improve industrial processes, factory work, and supply chains, or make it easier for Internet-of-Things (IoT) smart devices to function. With much bigger bandwidth and much faster speeds, 6G could open up new possibilities that we can’t even imagine yet. 

Just like with every other generation of mobile technology and every other stage of the internet’s growth, people will use 6G as a launching pad for new businesses, new tools and applications, and new ways of communicating, creating, and living online.  

How does 6G work?

Just like 5G, 6G would work by using radio waves. But unlike 5G, the 6G bandwidth would be at a higher frequency end of the radio spectrum. While 5G uses millimeter waves, 6G would extend its reach into the terahertz band of radio waves. 

As described in this article from Northeastern University, the terahertz band has historically been used only by scientific research satellites, and the federal government has not allowed telecommunications companies to use the terahertz band. In order for 6G to work, the 6G network would have to share space on the terahertz band with the scientific research satellites. 

Fortunately, researchers at Northeastern University have discovered a method called “time sharing,” where 6G telecom providers could seamlessly switch back and forth with satellite teams, making it possible to use the terahertz band for both purposes.

This is just one example of how research is still underway to determine how 6G will work. 

How is 6G different from 5G?

Let’s look at how the fastest theoretical 6G speeds would compare to today’s 5G cellular data providers.

5G ProviderVerizon (5G)T-Mobile (5G)AT&T (5G)6G (theoretical)
Avg. Speeds*84.9Mbps186.3Mbps71.1Mbps100Gbps (100,000Mbps)**
5G availability (# of people covered)†175 million325 million290 millionn/a

*Speeds and availability data come from the Opensignal USA 5G Experience Report, January 2023. 

†5G availability numbers from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Opensignal (for Verizon). 

**Theoretical peak speed of 6G according to Nokia Bell Labs.

The 6G top data speeds of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) are around 1,000 times faster than the average 5G cellular data speeds. What about data caps? With 6G, data bandwidth is intended to be more abundant than ever. According to Nokia Bell Labs, in order to keep up with people’s ever-expanding demand for data, the 6G network’s data capacity would have to be at least 20 times the size of 5G’s wide area capacity. 

Comparing 6G to 5G is not really a fair contest, because 6G does not exist yet. No mobile carriers or internet service providers offer 6G service. 5G is already coming to many places, including rural areas, and it’s giving people a better internet experience than they could’ve accessed before. But if 6G gets deployed as predicted, and if it lives up to its promises, it’s going to bring a new Golden Age of the internet.

How does 6G compare to ultra 5G and 5G Ultra Wideband?

“Ultra 5G” is a catchy brand name for the fastest levels of 5G service. AT&T calls their ultra-fast 5G “5G+,” T-Mobile has “Ultra Capacity 5G,” and Verizon offers “5G Ultra Wideband.” It’s not just a clever slogan; these high-end brand names really do use the fastest-possible 5G connectivity, delivered via millimeter wave 5G spectrum. 

However, keep in mind that “ultra” 5G might not yet be available where you live, especially if you live in a small town or rural area. Millimeter wave 5G service tends to be limited to larger cities and big venues like airports and stadiums. 

If and when 6G starts to get deployed, possibly starting as soon as 2030, mobile phone customers might be offered new, faster cellular data connectivity via 6G and the terahertz band. But until then, keep checking your wireless carrier’s coverage map and see when the fastest possible 5G experience will be available in your community.

How does 6G compare to 5G Home Internet?

Let’s take a look at how the theoretical future 6G experience compares to today’s best 5G home internet plans.

Speeds & data
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet$40/mo. (w/ Go5G Next, Go5G Plus, or Magenta® MAX phone plan) or $60/mo. (w/ Autopay)
  • Averages 33–182Mbps*
  • Unlimited data
Verizon 5G Home Internet$35/mo. (w/ Verizon 5G mobile phone plan) or $60/mo. (w/out)
  • 25–1,000Mbps*
  • Unlimited data
Starry Internet$40/mo.
  • Up to 200Mbps* speeds
  • Unlimited data
6G Internet (theoretical)TBD
  • 100Gbps (100,000Mbps)**
  • Unlimited data

5G data as of May 2023; availability may vary by location and are subject to change. 

*Advertised 5G speeds.

**Theoretical peak speed of 6G according to Nokia Bell Labs.

As you can see in the table above, 6G internet speeds are predicted to be 100,000Mbps, which is 100 times the fastest advertised speeds of Verizon 5G home internet, and around 500 times the speeds of Starry Internet and T-Mobile 5G Home Internet. 

It’s not really a fair comparison to look at the speeds of 5G home internet versus the speed of theoretical future 6G technology that doesn’t exist yet. We don’t know how much data 6G would offer, or how much 6G would cost. No internet service providers offer 6G plans yet. But it’s amazing to think about just how much faster the 6G internet experience could be.   

Of course, before we get too excited about 6G, it’s important to remember that millions of Americans are still waiting for 5G home internet to become available near them. Only 40 million households have access to Verizon 5G home internet, while 50 million households are in range of T-Mobile’s 5G home internet service. Even if 6G becomes commercially available in 2030, we don’t know when it will be widely available for home internet customers.  

So while you’re waiting for 6G, or even if you’re still waiting for 5G to become available in your area, another good option for rural internet customers is 4G LTE Home Internet.

4G LTE Home Internet - a great alternative

Speeds & data
Verizon LTE Home Internet$35/mo. (with qualifying 5G mobile phone plan and Autopay), or –$60/mo.
  • Approx. 25–50Mbps
  • Unlimited data
T-Mobile Home Internet Lite$50.00/mo. for 100GB
$75/mo. for 150GB
$100/mo. for 200GB
$150/mo. for 300GB
  • Approx. 4–35Mbps
  • 100–300GB monthly data
UbiFi 5G/4G/LTE Internett$109.99/mo.
  • Up to 200Mbps
  • Unlimited monthly data
Ladybug WirelessStarting at $124.99/mo.
  • Up to 60Mbps
  • 300–700GB monthly data/li>

Data as of May 2023. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

4G LTE home internet is a good option for many home internet customers, especially if you’re in a rural area where cable and fiber internet providers do not reach. The price of 4G LTE home internet is competitive compared to satellite internet, and most plans offer unlimited data. However, the speeds will depend on where you are in the provider’s service area. 

How does 4G LTE home internet speed compare to 6G? Let’s assume a top speed of 100,000Mbps for 6G. That makes 6G about 500 times faster than UbiFi (the fastest option for 4G LTE internet), and 2,000 times faster than Verizon’s 4G LTE internet.

Keep in mind: 6G does not exist yet. 4G LTE internet might be the best, fastest, most affordable option for your home internet needs. But it’s worth dreaming about the future, even if we have to live with today’s slower internet speeds.

Advantages of 6G

As we’ve discussed, comparing the future theoretical technology of 6G to today’s slower, lower-bandwidth internet options really isn’t fair. It’s like comparing the warp drive on the Starship Enterprise to an internal combustion engine. 

But learning about future technology is still worth the effort. If 6G lives up to even part of its potential, it could give people a wide range of benefits, including: 

  • Faster internet speeds (100,000Mbps!) 
  • Near-unlimited data bandwidth (20x the coverage area of 5G)
  • Ultra-low latency—enabling devices and sensors to talk to each other more efficiently 
  • A nearly “cognitive” network that senses and gathers information constantly from people and devices 
  • Innovative new devices and applications, such as human-machine interfaces
  • The foundation for a new wave of innovation, entrepreneurship, productivity, and economic growth

Is there a 6G network?

Currently, the 6G network does not exist. 6G is still in the early stages of research and development. No mobile phone carriers or internet service providers offer 6G internet.

When will 6G come out?

If the experts’ predictions are correct, 6G might become commercially available starting in 2030. However, that doesn’t mean that every mobile phone carrier will suddenly offer 6G cellular data, or every internet service provider (ISP) will deliver ultra-fast 6G home internet. 

Many aspects of 6G are still unknown, and we don’t know what the ultimate timeline will be product development and launch. Just because a technology is scientifically possible doesn’t mean it will automatically become a new successful product for consumers. 6G is an exciting concept, but it’s not a reality yet.

Ben Gran
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