Why is everybody talking about 6G?

Whoa, 6G? Slow your roll, man. What happened to 5G?

Suddenly, everybody is talking about 6G. In fact, there seems to be a competition that has been triggered to talk about 6G, and make claims and predictions about it.

But why?

One reason is that in the past few months, 5G, which has been anticipated for decades, has crossed some kind of threshold.

Just this week, for example, the three biggest Chinese carriers — China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom — switched on for public use 86,000 5G base stations in 50 Chinese cities. China also claimed it would “activate” 130,000 5G base stations by the end of the year.

The Chinese rollout follows commercial availability of 5G in the United States and elsewhere, but has come online on a much larger scale.

In the U.S., Verizon should appear in 30 cities by the end of next month. AT&T’s 5G network is currently available to enterprise and business customers in 21 cities. As a result of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, Dish Network is required to build a 5G network that reaches 70 percent of the U.S. population by June 2023. And Sprint/T-Mobile itself offers 5G in a handful of cities, and will be fined if they don’t roll out 5G networks in a list of US cities on a agreed-upon schedule.

5G is happening … sort of

5G is finally starting to happen. But the hype around 5G centers on the false belief that consumer access via 5G-supporting smartphones will radically and quickly change how smartphones work, the real boon will come mainly to enterprises over the next few years.

What consumers generally don’t understand is that 5G phones will operate on 4G networks almost all the time, kicking into 5G high gear only when their applications demand it and when they happen to be near one of the 5G base stations provided by their carrier.

5G uses millimeter wave technology, which sends and receives data at higher frequencies and therefore faster and in larger quantities, but necessarily over a shorter distance than 4G (less…