Chinese researchers say they have achieved a record data streaming speed using a revolutionary technology that could help China take the lead in the global race for next-gen wireless communication, or 6G . Using vortex millimetre waves, a form of extremely high-frequency radio wave with rapidly changing spins, the researchers transmitted 1 terabyte of data over 1km (3,300 feet) in a second. The experimental wireless communication line, set up in the Beijing Winter Olympics compound last month, could stream more than 10,000 high-definition live video feeds simultaneously, the team led by Professor Zhang Chao, of the school of aerospace engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said in a statement on Thursday. The vortex waves, unlike anything in radio communication over the last century, added “a new dimension to wireless transmission”, said Zhang and his collaborators from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and China Unicom. They said the experiment suggested China was “leading the world in research on potential key technologies for 6G”. China to ‘help set international standards’ for 6G mobile technology Existing mobile devices use electromagnetic waves that spread like ripples in a pond for communication. Information is represented by the “up and down” of these waves, which – from a mathematical point of view – have just two dimensions. The vortex electromagnetic wave has a three-dimensional form like a tornado. Extra information could be coded into the whirling, or orbital angular momentum (OAM), of these waves to massively increase the bandwidth of communication. The spinning potential of radio waves was first reported by British physicist John Henry Poynting in 1909, but making use of it proved to be difficult. Zhang and colleagues said their breakthrough was built on the hard work of many research teams across the globe over the past few decades. Researchers in Europe conducted the earliest communication experiments using vortex waves in the 1990s. In 2020, a team with the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone company in Japan achieved a speed of 200Gbps over 10 metres (33 feet). A major challenge is that the size of the spinning waves increases with distance, and the weakening signal makes high-speed data transmission difficult. The Chinese team built a unique transmitter to generate a more focused vortex beam, making the waves spin in three different modes to carry more information, and developed a high-performance receiving device that could pick up and decode a huge amount of data in a split second. A government researcher studying 6G technology in Shenzhen said the experiment in Beijing could be “the start of a revolution” in communications technology. “The most exciting thing is not just about the speed. It is about introducing a new physical dimension, which can lead to a whole new world with almost unlimited possibilities,” said the researcher, who asked not to be named because he was involved in confidential research projects with China’s largest telecoms firms. The Chinese government and telecommunications industry will focus mainly on the mass application of 5G in the coming years because the existing millimetre wave technology matured with decreasing cost, according to the researcher. China must brace for ‘digital cold war’ with US as tech rivalry heats up The commercial roll-out of 6G is expected by 2030, but the military could adopt the technology earlier because “they care more about performance than cost”, he said. Zhang’s team said their experiment used W band, a radio frequency used in military applications. In 2018, they established a vortex wave link between a plane and a ground station over a distance of 172km, which remains a world record. The Tsinghua team is also building a prototype quantum radar using similar technology that can accurately detect stealth aircraft. A research team in Tianjin last month said they had developed a terahertz transmitter , another technological approach to 6G, for China’s hypersonic weapons programme. The United States and Japan announced a US$4.5 billion programme in April last year as a joint effort to counter China’s rapid progress in 6G technology. A survey by Nikkei and Tokyo-based research company Cyber Creative Institute in September last year found that China owned more than 40 per cent of the world’s 6G patent filings, followed by the US with 35 per cent, Japan (10 per cent), Europe (9 per cent) and South Korea (4 per cent).