ITU advances the development of 6G
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has published the framework for the development of standards and radio interface technologies for the sixth generation of International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), following the Radiocommunication Assembly 2023 (RA-23) held in Dubai from 13–17 November. The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) will now focus on defining technical requirements, the submission process and the evaluation criteria for potential sixth-generation (6G) radio interface technologies.
The Assembly agreed on ‘IMT-2030’ as the technical reference for the sixth generation of mobile systems, with details of the framework contained in Recommendation ITU-R M.2160 on the ‘IMT-2030 Framework’. The Assembly also updated the principles of Resolution ITU-R 65, paving the way for studies on the compatibility of current regulations with potential sixth-generation mobile system radio interface technologies for 2030 and beyond.
The ITU-R Recommendation represents significant progress in the development and implementation of globally accepted standards for mobile systems using 6G. All the previous mobile telecommunication generations — analog cellular (1G), digital cellular (2G), IMT-2000 (3G), IMT-Advanced (4G) and IMT-2020 (5G) — were also standardised through the ITU.
“Terrestrial wireless systems to be developed under IMT-2030 are expected to drive the next wave of innovative radiocommunication systems, promote digital equity and advance universal connectivity,” said Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. “The publication of the Recommendation on future 6G mobile technologies is a testament to ITU’s longstanding multi-stakeholder approach which ensures the development of globally accepted technical and regulatory solutions.”
For the next phase of 6G development, companies and industry associations will submit proposals for the IMT-2030 Radio Interface Technology (RIT) for ITU-R consideration in early 2027. These submissions will then be evaluated against the agreed minimum requirements prepared by ITU’s expert group on IMT systems (Working Party 5D), with the prospect of getting a final set of 6G technology standards approved by 2030.
The IMT-2030 Framework Recommendation identifies 15 capabilities for 6G technology, nine of which are derived from existing 5G systems. IMT-2030 is expected to help address the need for increased environmental, social and economic sustainability, with expected 6G usage scenarios including the following:
- Immersive communication to provide a rich and interactive video experience for users.
- Hyper-reliable and low-latency communication to enable the scale-up of intelligent industrial applications including telemedicine and management of energy and power grids.
- Enhanced ubiquitous connectivity, especially in rural, remote and sparsely populated areas with the aim of bridging the digital divide.
- Massive communication to include expanded use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and applications in smart cities, intelligent transport systems and sectors such as health, agriculture, energy and environmental monitoring.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and communications to support AI-powered applications.
- Integrated multi-dimensional sensing to improve assisted navigation, and high-precision positioning including object and presence detection, localisation, imaging and mapping.
“Mobile communications are central to our efforts to ensure that everyone is meaningfully connected,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU Secretary-General. “By agreeing on a way forward on 6G, ITU Member States have taken an important step toward ensuring that technical progress is synonymous with affordability, security and resilience — supporting sustainable development and digital transformation everywhere.”
Other discussion highlights during RA-23 included the following:
- The adoption of a new resolution on the use of IMT technologies for fixed wireless broadband.
- In accordance with Resolution 219 (Bucharest, 2022), the adoption of a new resolution on space sustainability to facilitate the long-term sustainable use of radio-frequency spectrum and associated satellite orbit resources used by space services. This will be supportive of further cooperation with other United Nations organisations and beneficial to the satellite industry.
- The conclusion of a new ITU-R Recommendation on the protection of the radio navigation-satellite service and amateur satellite services.
- The adoption of a new resolution on gender equality to strengthen, accelerate and widen the active involvement of women in the work of the ITU-R.
“The work of the Radiocommunication Assembly helps us shape how we live together in our interconnected world,” Bogdan-Martin said. “The outcomes of this meeting ensure a promising future for ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector and, through the groundbreaking resolution on gender equality, for women in the radiocommunications field.”
“This Radiocommunication Assembly has achieved significant accomplishments, and the outcomes will establish the framework for the activities of the ITU Radiocommunication Study Groups in the upcoming four-year study period,” Maniewicz added.
“We have set the stage for the development of new technologies with the potential to deliver better capacity and coverage everywhere, bridging the digital divide, as well as providing possible solutions to the challenges and impacts they will have on our lives.”
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