6G Communications will be a dead duck if it cannot deploy smart surfaces everywhere to deliver the tricky far-infrared signals necessary to hugely advance smartphones, entertainment, medicine, Internet of Things, ICT. Yet nothing has been done to appraise the mass production, costing, volume technologies and timelines of those surfaces or to forecast the commercial opportunity. The new IDTechEx report, “6G Communications Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces Roadmap, Materials, Market 2021-2045” puts that right. Call them RIS.
6G is the sixth generation of wireless mobile technology. It is sometimes called 6G Networks because the ambitions of those researching and funding the subject go far beyond improved radio telephony. Researchers promise the terahertz beams will charge your phone, work unpowered devices, position to better that one centimeter and sense everything everywhere but what is affordable and practicable and when? Research with clunky parts like copper sheet, printed circuit boards and conventional components give no visibility on this. It sits awkwardly with Samsung and others promising mass deployment in 2030.
There is some skepticism because 2021 sees 5G engaging only slowly. IDTechEx wrote the definitive reports on 5G materials and commercialisation. With 6G, the implications for computing, networks and even global energy consumption become considerable when a radically different approach to hardware is forced upon us. The power, performance, size and space constraints make it essential that the new reconfigurable metasurfaces succeed in what will be their first mass application. Get it right and a trillion-dollar new industry awaits. Printed and flexible electronics is key, giving that industry and the advanced materials industry a multi-billion dollar opportunity.
At 205 information-packed pages, this is a drill-down report from the IDTechEx overview report, “6G Communications Markets, Devices, Materials 2021-2041”. The IDTechEx report, “6G Communications Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces Roadmap, Materials, Market 2021-2045” is prepared by our PhD-level, multilingual researchers across the world. Its focus is commercialisation and benefits to society presented in a manner easily understood by those not steeped in the subject. No equations but a host of research papers appraised and referenced for those wishing to go deeper. Many new infograms, graphs and photographs derive from global interviews, conferences and analysis over many years but particularly 2021. IDTechEx has led market and science analysis of the enabling technologies for 21 years, including consultancy for the big names.
The report answers questions such as:
- What frequencies will be chosen as 6G launches then as it improves?
- Implications for RIS design evolution?
- What RIS design can achieve what benefits when?
- What performance is realistic for the early years of affordable deployment?
- What materials should be favoured and why?
- What is the 6G RIS roadmap 2021-2045?
- What will be the cost breakdown for different RIS surfaces optimised for mass production?
- Globally, what area will be deployed yearly and cumulative by year to 2041?
- What price $/square meter and total market value by year to 2041?
- What companies will make them and who will be deployment partners into ceilings, facades, billboards etc.?
- What printed and thin film technologies are appropriate and which organisations are improving each and by how much?
- What are the SOFT appraisals on each aspect?
- How do smart cities fit in with this?
The 35 page Executive Summary and Conclusions is sufficient for those in a hurry seeking the promises, the basics, critical analysis, comparison tables, roadmap, RIS and backup forecasts. The 24 page Introduction is a light-hearted presentation in everyday language and images but getting over a great deal of vital information. It is an antidote to the appalling mathematical obscurity of most that has been published so far, with even RIS described by an increasing, large number of long words for the same thing. The rest of the report has to go into more detail but this is eased by a comprehensive glossary at the start of the report.
The 21 page Chapter 3 is on metamaterials and their 2D version called metasurfaces that are so essential for 6G, particularly the semi-passive versions. How do they work? What are the pros and cons of ever more advanced versions for possible use in 6G? Who has achieved what and where? What are the typical patterns and drivers?
The 45 page Chapter 4 Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces takes you into the complete devices – multilayer thin films on trucks, indoor walls, roofing and more. We summarise recent appraisals of progress and possibilities from a host of referenced researchers, adding our own expert opinions and predictions. We add our new ideas such as providing the power by a photovoltaics overlayer, how to print the active devices, what a smart city looks like with 6G, identifying companies involved that can incorporate RIS in their hardware. Learn why other technologies can redirect and enhance emissions but not meet the 6G requirements in shape and cost. Nowhere near. The RIS developers and programs are identified. Discussion is in the context of relevant progress with printed and thin film electronics, 5G and terahertz devices generally.
Chapter 5 uses 45 pages for a deep dive into the candidate technologies for the vital fine metal patterning for both metasurfaces, thin film devices and interconnects involved. It starts will illustrations of many metasurfaces and their patterning needs. Many companies and their capabilities are profiled. IDTechEx has drill down reports on these technologies and companies for those seeking even more.