Up to this point, the overriding issue for next generation networks–fixed or mobile–has been bandwidth: delivering more, and delivering more flexibly. But it is hard not to guess that the industry is reaching a point of diminishing returns, as did chipmakers building ever-faster processors. The point is that we might be approaching the last era of access network development where raw speed was the main driver of development, as crazy as that might sound.
It is too early to speculate about what a 6G mobile network might look like, what features it might add, over 5G, or what applications or use cases might emerge on such a network. But the ways the computing industry has changed might offer some insight as to why raw speed might not be the main issue.
Even if performance tends to improve with time, we eventually reached a point where the raw increases in processor speed, of the cost of memory, became less important in shaping the business than where, how and why computing was done. In other words, cloud computing and mobility, spoken interfaces and so forth arguably are more important than processing speed.
So when 5G has been deployed ubiquitously, and consumers have access to download speeds as high as 10 Gbps, one-millisecond latency, an order of magnitude (10 times) to two orders of magnitude (100 times) change in the cost of supplying internet bandwidth, with network slicing and edge computing, it really is a bit difficult now to figure out how much additional effort needs to be put into raw speed, improved latency or cost per bit.
Instead, the focus should shift, as did computing, to where, how and why communications gets done, and then optimizing 6G to support those changes. It just seems unlikely, at this point, that raw increases in speed, latency or other core network performance features will have the same impact as once was the case from deploying faster networks.