6G Proof-of-Concept System Is Showcased by Samsung and UCSB

The peak data rate for 6G is 50 times faster, with a 10th of the loss of latency compared to 5G.

Samsung Electronics, in collaboration with the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), has announced that its research teams have been able to create a working 6G terahertz (THz) wireless communication prototype.

Researchers from Samsung Research, Samsung Research America, and UCSB introduced their findings at a workshop meeting on terahertz communication held during the most recent IEEE International Conference on Communications.

The collaborative group was able to demonstrate the importance that the THz spectrum will have on next-gen 6G technology, with the team showcasing an end-to-end 140GHz wireless connection using a digital beamforming solution.

Samsung’s researchers Wonsuk Choi, Shadi Abu-Sarra, and Gary Xu posing with the 6G THz system demo. (Image courtesy of Samsung.)

Samsung’s researchers Wonsuk Choi, Shadi Abu-Sarra, and Gary Xu posing with the 6G THz system demo. (Image courtesy of Samsung.)

The terahertz communication band has a vast volume of spectrum available, which will enable things such as wideband channels with tens of GHz-wide bandwidth. Theoretically this will be able to meet the 6G benchmark of a TB/s (terabits per second) data rate.

The Samsung and UCSB team’s research shows that the peak data rate can have as little as one-tenth of the loss of 5G technology while also providing a data rate that is 50 times faster than 5G. With the information latency capacity, we will be able to unlock a 6G level of hyperconnected services and experiences such as extended reality and hi-fi mobile holograms.

The fully functioning prototype system showcased by the researchers during their demo was made up of a 16-channel phased array transmitter and receiver module driven by CMOS RFICs (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors radio frequency integrated circuits) with a baseband unit that processed signals with a 2GHz bandwidth and fast adaptive beamforming.

Adaptive beamforming uses machine learning for digital signal processing to identify the radio frequency signal’s direction of arrival to a mobile station, as well as to generate a directional beam back toward the source of the signal. During their demonstration, the prototype tested a real-time throughput of 6.2 Gbps at a 15-minute distance with the adaptive beam’s steering capacity at the THz level.

Left to right: dual-channel 140GHz RFICs, 16-channel 140GHz phased-array module, and 128-element antenna array. (Image courtesy of Samsung.)

Left to right: dual-channel 140GHz RFICs, 16-channel 140GHz phased-array module, and 128-element antenna array. (Image courtesy of Samsung.) 

In March 2019 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened up the spectrum between 95 GHz and 3,300 GHz for experimental and research use, as well as for unlicensed applications to spur the evolution of the next generation of wireless communication technologies. This, combined with recent discussions on the use and deployment of 5G new radio systems operating at bands beyond 52.6 GHz, make it inevitable that mobile communications will eventually need to utilize the THz bands in future wireless systems. The terahertz band currently has enormous amounts of available bandwidth to enable wideband channels with tens of GHz-wide bandwidth required to meet the 6G threshold of a Tbps data rate. Samsung envisions that 6G will be designed to use up to 3,000 GHz, compared to the 6 GHz and 110 GHz used by 4G and 5G, respectively.

Although the availability of its wideband spectrum is the main driver for adopting THz band communications, going with THz also has the potential for highly precise positioning functionality, which further bolsters its case as the next major communication band spectrum. The extremely wideband waveforms in the THz band enable the possibility for sub-centimeter-scale accuracy, and the links between transmitters and receivers will most likely be line of sight—thus greatly improving the accuracy of any distance-based positioning systems utilizing the band. Because the wavelength beams at this communication level are finer than those at lower bands, these sharp beams will also be able to provide more detailed angular resolution, along with triangulation accuracy.

 UCSB’s Mark Rodwell first developed the 140GHz transmitter and receiver RFIC in 2017. (Image courtesy of Samsung.)

UCSB’s Mark Rodwell first developed the 140GHz transmitter and receiver RFIC in 2017. (Image courtesy of Samsung.)

“We bring our knowledge of advanced mmWave technologies, in particular the THz spectrum above 100GHz, focusing on devices and integrated circuits, while Samsung provides its expertise in wireless systems and cellular networks,” said Professor Mark Rodwell, a prominent IEEE fellow and IEEE award recipient. By leveraging the advanced waves spectrum theory and technology expertise of his research group, along with Samsung Research’s, and Samsung Research America’s cellular and wireless system and network knowledge and manufacturing capacities, the teams were able to come together and create the impressive prototype.

Samsung’s and the UCSB’s research teams leveraged their expertise to develop the terahertz phased array module, which was the crucial element to the breakthrough, and successful run of the test. Samsung’s precise digital beamforming calibration algorithm can meet the sophisticated signal packaging technology requirements of the research test chips so they can be used in large-scale array modules. Samsung’s advances and expertise in wireless technologies allowed them to produce high quality beamforming gain and achieve the low latency required for the next generation of communication technologies. 

Samsung’s Vision

Samsung is so invested in the next generation of communication technologies that Samsung Research, Samsung’s advanced R&D division, has funded a separate Advanced Communications Research Center. The Advanced Communications Research Center in conjunction with Samsung and Samsung Research, released a white paper titled “The Next Hyper-Connected Experience for All,” where they outlined Samsung’s vision for 6G. The remainder of this article covers some of Samsung’s vision for the next generation of communications technologies to help contextualize and understand the achievement of the UCSB/Samsung 6G prototype.

Samsung’s vision for the next generation of communication devices is based on current trends:

  • Wireless communication has gone beyond connecting people to connecting devices as well.
  • Wireless communication has become intertwined with our daily lives and has become a huge part of our social interactions.

These, combined with the current pace of growth and advancements in AI, automation, and robotics, will herald the sixth generation of communication. Samsung’s vision can be summarized by the following four trends: connected machines, the use of AI in wireless communication, openness of mobile communications and the increased need for contributing to achieving social goals.

Connected Machines as the Main User

Connected Machines as a Main User

Current estimates project that the number of connected devices will be 500 billion by the end of this decade—nearly 60 times larger than the expected world population. By then, mobile devices such as augmented reality (AR) headsets, hologram devices, home appliances, industrial applications, infrastructure sensors and other various kinds of autonomous and Internet of Things (IoT) devices will be more commonplace and require the communications infrastructure to accommodate their needs. As the number of connected machines continues to rise, these machines will become the primary users of 6G communications. While previous generations of communications technology focused on humans as the main users, communication technology moving forward will be driven by the needs and requirements of the expected half a trillion different devices.

AI as the New Tool for Wireless Communications

The use of AI tools has proliferated in various industries to help optimize performance, and Samsung sees advanced AI as a necessary requirement for 6G. By building systems with slots for AI applications down the road, the next generation of wireless communication will be able to optimize network planning (such as determining base station location), detecting, predicting, and enabling the tracking of network anomalies. Built with AI in mind, 6G will be able to take full advantage of the technology for improvements in network operation, as well as open up avenues to provide additional services.

Openness of Mobile Communications

Engaging with open-source software to operate core network functions and base functions expedites the development processes and advancements created by shared knowledge between expert users. By lowering the barriers to entry and promoting interoperability of different systems, developers will be encouraged to share information and advancements more freely. The Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) is an example of one such application, providing an open and automated radio access network. One result of adopting open architectures is the availability of personal yet anonymized user information to improve service quality. This also creates  additional avenues for machine learning applications.

Social Goals and Mobile Communications

The deployment of 5G has been able to play a pivotal role in addressing social infrastructure. The deployment of 5G has allowed remote learning, and the combination of 5G and digitization is on pace to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade. The deployment of 6G will help address the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 by creating an even further connected world with ubiquitous access to information, creating economic opportunities and addressing the issues of rural exodus and mass urbanization.