ITU-R WP5D Completed the Recommendation Framework for IMT-2030 (Global 6G Vision)
Unified global standards foster global collaboration, enable seamless connectivity, and drive economies of scale. Today, wireless mobile technology has become a fundamental platform for the digital transformation of everything. While we experience the benefits of unified global 5G standards in their worldwide rollout, a unified global 6G standard is expected to pave the way for an intelligently connected future with transformative applications and services.
ITU-R Sets Timeline for Global IMT-2030 (6G) Development
In the past 30 years, the radio communication division of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R) has been coordinating the efforts of governments and industries in developing a global broadband IMT system. It has successfully led the way in developing IMT-2000 (3G), IMT-Advanced (4G), and IMT-2020 (5G) and is now in a new phase toward 2030 and beyond, i.e. IMT-2030 (6G). This is the first step toward a unified global 6G standard.
After extensive discussions over a year, ITU-R has decided on the overall timeline for 6G in June 2022 with three major stages1, i.e. 1) Stage 1 – vision definition to be completed in June 2023 before the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23), 2) Stage 2 – requirements and evaluation methodology to be completed in 2026, and 3) Stage 3 – specifications to be completed in 2030. The 3-stage timeline and the tasks for each stage are summarized in Figure 1.
At this stage, the main goal of ITU-R is to reach a consensus on the global vision for IMT-2030 (6G), including identifying the potential user application trends and emerging technology trends, defining enhanced and brand-new usage scenarios and corresponding capabilities, as well as understanding the new spectrum needs.
Figure 1 ITU-R timeline for IMT-20301
ITU-R Identified Future Technology Trends for IMT-2030 (6G)
In February 2020, ITU-R Working Party (WP) 5D finalized the work plan for a report on Future Technology Trends (FTT), aiming to provide a broad view of future technical aspects of terrestrial IMT systems for the timeframe up to 2030 and beyond. The report was completed in June 2022 and published in November 2022 (M.2516) with 59 contributions from all over the world2. The report elaborates on technology enablers for enhancing radio interface and radio access networks, as well as emerging technology trends for enabling new functions and services.
Newly emerging technology trends for the development of IMT-2030 (6G) include technologies such as native artificial intelligence (AI) — which refers to both AI-enabled air interface design and radio network for AI services, integrated sensing and communication, sub-Tera Hertz (THz) transmission, extreme MIMO and reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RIS), enhanced trustworthiness with distributed ledger and quantum technology, as well as the interconnection between terrestrial networks (TN) and non-terrestrial networks (NTN).
Table 1 highlights the technology trends adopted in the report M.2516.
Table 1 Technology trends adopted in ITU-R FTT Report M.25162
|Emerging technology trends and enablers||
|Technologies to enhance the radio interface||
|Technology enablers to enhance the radio network||
ITU-R Completed Framework Recommendation for IMT-2030 (6G)
In early 2021, ITU-R WP 5D formally launched the study of the new Recommendation ITU-R M. [IMT Framework for 2030 and Beyond], which is commonly known as the 6G Vision. A full-day workshop on "IMT for 2030 and beyond" was held on 14th June 2022, with a total of 348 participants attending in-person as well as online3. Fourteen presentations were made by various ITU-R members, external organizations, research projects, and academia, demonstrating strong interests and visions toward IMT-2030 (6G).
After two years and four months of continuous discussion and a total of 156 worldwide contributions, the draft of the new Recommendation for IMT-2030 (6G) was completed on schedule and finalized on 22nd June 2023 at the 44th ITU-R WP 5D meeting in Geneva, before the upcoming WRC-23 in November 20234. It is worth noting that the attention and the number of contributions to the 6G Vision discussion continued to increase and reached their maximum in the June 2022 meeting. Delegates of Administrations, regulators, operators, vendors, and research platforms from Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Africa, and Oceania all shared their views and contributed to the final consolidated Recommendation.
Six major usage scenarios are defined for IMT-2030 (6G), as illustrated in Figure 2 by the hexagon, extending from the triangle featuring IMT-2020. On the circle around the hexagon are the four overarching aspects, i.e. sustainability, ubiquitous intelligence, security/privacy/resilience, and connecting the unconnected, that act as essential design principles applicable to all usage scenarios.
Figure 2 Usage scenarios and overarching aspects of IMT-20304
Extended Usage Scenarios for Communication Enhancement
As shown in the figure, three of them are further enhancements of the IMT-2020 (5G) usage scenarios (eMBB, mMTC, URLLC), i.e. Immersive Communication, Massive Communication, and Hyper Reliable and Low-Latency Communication, enhancing capabilities such as data rate, area traffic capacity, connection density, latency, and reliability. Typical use cases of these scenarios are summarized in Table 2.
New Usage Scenarios for Coverage Extension
Ubiquitous Connectivity, as one of the three new usage scenarios, is still an enhanced communication scenario but features a wide range of coverage and mobility. In addition to the coverage extension technologies for terrestrial radio networking, the new architectures and business models to support interworking between TN (Terrestrial Networks) and NTN (Non-Terrestrial Networks) will be introduced. With this new usage scenario, it is expected to extend the current broadband and Internet-of-things (IoT) services into rural, remote, and sparsely populated areas, connecting the unconnected areas at an affordable cost.
New Usage Scenarios for Service Extension
Integrated Sensing and Communication and Integrated AI and Communication are two new scenarios that have been included in the IMT Framework Recommendation to provide services beyond communications. New capabilities such as sensing accuracy, resolution, and detection probability, as well as AI-related distributed training and inference capabilities, are defined to evaluate the radio networks for new services and applications. Integrating the new capabilities of sensing and AI with enhanced communication, the 6G network will serve as a distributed neural system that will help fuse the physical, biological, and cyber worlds, making real-time digital twins a reality. It is expected to boost innovation and productivity, enhance living standards, and lay a solid foundation for Intelligence of Everything in the future.
Table 2 Typical use cases for the 6 usage scenarios of IMT-20304
|Hyper Reliable & Low-Latency Communication||
|Integrated AI and Communication||
|Integrated Sensing and Communication||
Figure 3 summarizes the different dimensions of capabilities for IMT-2030, including 9 enhanced capabilities (peak data rate, user experienced data rate, spectrum efficiency, area traffic capacity, connection density, mobility, latency, reliability, and security/privacy/resilience) and 6 new capabilities (coverage, positioning, sensing-related capabilities, AI-related capabilities, sustainability, and interoperability). The range of values for the capabilities in the figure are estimated targets for research and investigation of IMT-2030. For each usage scenario, single or multiple values within the range would be developed in the future in other ITU-R Recommendations/Reports.
Figure 3 Capabilities of IMT-20304
Considering the spectrum demand, the recommendation mentions that multiple frequency ranges will be needed to meet the capacity and coverage requirements of IMT systems and to serve emerging services and applications. IMT-2030 envisages the use of a wide range of frequency bands ranging from sub-1 GHz up to sub-THz bands (low bands, mid bands (centimeterWave), mmWave bands and sub-THz bands). It expects that wider channel bandwidths may be needed to support future applications and services for IMT-2030 in a wide variety of deployments, including wide-area deployments. It is important to ensure that the current spectrum and newly assigned spectrum are harmonized.
ITU-R 6G Vision Sets Journey of Global 6G Development
The successful completion of the global 6G Vision marks the official start of the journey toward 6G standardization. It is a fundamental milestone in the development of 6G, which will be implemented through global cooperation in accordance with the timeline set by ITU-R. In the next three years starting from 2024, ITU-R WP 5D will focus on the study of detailed technical performance requirements and the evaluation criteria and methodologies, paving the way for the technology proposal evaluation in the last phase of the IMT-2030 cycle, i.e. from 2027 to 2030. Meanwhile, 3GPP will continue the evolution of 5G into 5G Advanced, also known as 5.5G, and is expected to start 6G technology standardization in Release 20 around the second half of 2025 and prepare the technology proposal for ITU-R evaluation around late 2028 and early 2029, with the aim of completing the specifications of IMT-2030 in 2030.
Huawei has been actively engaged in researching and developing 6G technologies, building on its previous experience in the field. The company has made significant contributions to the ITU-R's efforts to define the Global 6G Vision through contributions of China, joint contributions from multi-vendor companies and leading the editing and drafting groups. As part of China's efforts, Huawei is committed to advancing the next generation of wireless technology and shaping the future of global connectivity.
It is noteworthy that Huawei has been at the forefront of proposing the two new usage scenarios beyond communication, namely Integrated Sensing and Communication and Integrated AI and Communication, as depicted in Figure 45,6. In addition to its efforts in ITU-R, Huawei is also actively collaborating with global operators, industry peers, vertical partners, and academia collaborators to advance 6G research, demonstration, and standardization through various global platforms such as 3GPP, NGMN, SNS JU, 5G-ACIA, 5GAA, one6G, WWRF, and IEEE.
Figure 4 Overview of 6G use cases from the book "6G: The Next Horizon"5
6G is the next playground of innovations. It is expected to go on the market around 2030. 5.5G or 5G Advanced is a natural bridge for the evolution from 5G toward 6G. The ambition of our 6G vision is to make our planet and the human society as a whole an intelligently connected and sustainably developed global village.
- ITU-R, "Overview timeline for IMT towards the year 2030 and beyond," 2022. Available online: https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-r/oth/0a/06/R0A060000C80001PDFE.pdf
- ITU-R, Report M.2516-0, "Future technology trends of terrestrial International Mobile Telecommunications systems towards 2030 and beyond," Nov. 2022. Available online: https://www.itu.int/dms_pub/itu-r/opb/rep/R-REP-M.2516-2022-PDF-E.pdf
- ITU-R, Workshop on "IMT for 2030 and beyond", https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-R/study-groups/rsg5/rwp5d/Pages/wsp-imt-vision-2030-and-beyond.aspx
- ITU-R, DRAFT NEW RECOMMENDATION, "Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond," June 2023.
- Wen Tong and Peiying Zhu, "6G: The Next Horizon," Cambridge University Press, May 2021.
- Huawei, Whitepaper, "6G: The Next Horizon, From Connected People and Things to Connected Intelligence", Sept. 2021. Available online: https://www.huawei.com/en/huaweitech/future-technologies/6g-white-paper
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