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China Launches World’s First-Ever 6G Satellite in Orbit

Is the world ready for 6G technology?

Margaret Tionquiao

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  • On November 6, China launched the Long March 6 rocket into orbit
  • Along with it are 13 satellites, including Tianyan-5—the world’s first remote-sensing 6G satellite
  • The satellite uses terahertz waves (THz) and can send data faster than even 5G
  • However, it shares the same weakness as the 5G, making its possible rollout seem just as difficult

China successfully launched a Long March 6 rocket, sending into orbit a payload of 13 satellites, including Tianyan-5—the world’s first-ever 6G satellite—last November 6.

Tianyan-5 is a remote-sensing satellite developed by the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China along with Chengdu Guoxing Aerospace Technology and Beijing Weina Xingkong Technology.

They sent it to space aboard the carrier rocket Long March 6 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch center in Shanxi Province.
China-6G-launch

Along with the Tianyan-5 were 12 other Earth-observing satellites created by the Argentinian company Satellogic.

What made Tianyan-5 particularly note-worthy is the high-frequency terahertz communication payload in its mechanism—a communication installation device capable of sending data at speeds several times faster than 5G ever can. It also carries monitoring technologies which will be useful when watching out for crop disaster and forest fires.

5G vs. 6G technology
5G-vs-6G

As the world looks for higher bandwidth, faster speed, and lower latency to survive the congested cellular networks, a new generation of cellular technology like the Tianyan-5 is groundbreaking.

The terahertz waves (THz) used in Tianyan-5 are submillimeter waves with a record of achieving data rates of over 100 Gbps. This type sits between the microwave and infrared light on the electromagnetic spectrum, much like the millimeter waves used in 5G. Just like 5G’s Gigahertz (GHz), 6G’s THz share the same weakness—the limited range of application caused by the water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is the very reason for the slow development of 5G, despite being rolled out for some time now.

5G is the fifth and most recent generation defined by the global partnership 3GPP for cellular broadband networks. Though still new, it is operational at millimeter-wave frequencies ranging from 30 to 300 Gigahertz. The 5G network is already 10 to 100 times higher than the previous 4G cellular network frequency. The development is a bit slow for 5G because of the limitations set by the water vapor in the atmosphere. Coupled with the fear borne out of conspiracy theories and its alleged ties to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, even already-erected 5G towers have recently been destroyed.

Tianyan-5 may prove to be the next “G” for cell phones but at this time, only thing confirmed is this: The world is still years away from understanding the current “G” which is 5G; but with 6G, nobody can tell.

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