UK's first 6G research facility to open at the University of Sheffield

University of Sheffield's 'the Diamond' building
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The University of Sheffield has announced it will be the home of the UK’s first national 6G research facility.

The facility is set to open in January 2024 and is tipped to support the UK’s ambitions in becoming a world leader in 6G technology.

It will house “specialist equipment” to be used by academics and industry partners on collaborative development projects, the university said.

The facility’s equipment will support research into “many aspects of 6G radio systems”, including candidate waveforms, transmitter and receiver circuits, digital acquisition and signal processing, and antenna arrays.

It will also facilitate research into over-the-air (OTA) propagation measurements and multiple OTA transmissions simultaneously, a key capability in developing the most cutting-edge solutions.

“6G is the next generation of telecommunications technology and has fast become a strategically important area for research and development,” said Professor Timothy O'Farrell, professor of wireless communication at the University of Sheffield, who will direct the new facility.

“If the UK is to maintain its place as a global leader in telecommunications then we need the specialist equipment that our academics and industrial partners can use to innovate and develop next-generation 6G technologies.

“The national facility we are creating at the University of Sheffield will play a huge role in the UK's 6G capabilities.”

The facility will build on the University of Sheffield’s existing research into 5G, which is supported by its millimetre wave (mmWave) measurement facility.

Like the inbound 6G site the mmWave research facility is also open to both industry and academics.

It supports the testing and measurement of 5G systems, and communications related to the internet of things (IoT) and autonomous vehicles.

The university also hosts the DECADE project which is responsible for researching small cells for the purposes of boosting performance in other areas like spectrum efficiency, bandwidth expansion and Wi-Fi traffic offloading.

Sheffield's most notable 5G research includes that into 3D-printed radio antennas to bring 5G and 6G to rural communities. It's also involved in a combined effort with the University of York and DCMS to research the ways in which radio base stations communicate with each other, with the ambition to reduce reliance on single suppliers in the UK’s telecoms network.

State of 6G in the UK

The current most recent iteration of wireless mobile networking technology is 5G, which in the UK went live in 2018.

5G is still yet to reach its full maturity and has seen numerous stumbling blocks in its wide-scale rollout, namely the myriad conspiracy theories related to its masts.

There is no definitive launch date for 6G but speculation from the likes of Nokia and Ericsson - two of the major companies involved in the development of mobile networking hardware and standards - have said it won’t be accessible until at least 2030. Other estimates suggest an even longer wait.


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The research lifecycle for 6G is still in its infancy, but the main benefits of 6G will be similar to those touted around 5G’s launch - faster speeds and lower latency.

6G is expected to be around 10x faster than 5G, capable of delivering download speeds of 100 Gbits/sec and also transmitting data with one microsecond of latency (0.001 milliseconds).

It’s also expected to increase the network ceiling by 20 times.

Speeds like the ones predicted by industry giants could open up research into new capabilities in AI, IoT, as well as augmented reality and many other areas.

Given its infancy, the full potential of 6G is yet to be truly realised and likely won’t be until more research facilities like the one being built at the University of Sheffield are up and running.

Connor Jones

Connor Jones has been at the forefront of global cyber security news coverage for the past few years, breaking developments on major stories such as LockBit’s ransomware attack on Royal Mail International, and many others. He has also made sporadic appearances on the ITPro Podcast discussing topics from home desk setups all the way to hacking systems using prosthetic limbs. He has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield, and has previously written for the likes of Red Bull Esports and UNILAD tech during his career that started in 2015.