ITU-R: IMT-2030 (6G) Backgrounder and Envisioned Capabilities

ITU-R vs 3GPP – 5G and 6G Standards and Specifications:

For new IEEE Techblog readers, ITU-R is responsible for radio interfaces with WP 5D making the ITU-R recommendations (standards) for IMT Radio Interface Technologies (RITs) and Set of Radio Interface Technologies (SRITs).

For 5G, it was called IMT 2020 (M.2150 recommendation) and for 6G, it’s called IMT-2030. 3GPP contributions towards those standards have been presented to WP5D by ATIS – one of the organizational partners of 3GPP.

While ITU-T was supposed to standardize non-radio aspects of 5G, 5G Advanced and 6G, that did not happen.  Instead, those specifications, including the 5G and 6G core networks, are being developed by 3GPP.   Those 3GPP 5G and 6G non-radio specs have to be transposed and adopted by official standards bodies, such as ETSI.

Please see References and Comments below for more information.



In February 2021, the ITU started the development of ITU-R Framework Recommendation for IMT-2030 (6G) which was approved by the Radio Assembly 2023 and published as Recommendation ITU‑R M.2160 – Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond. Based on this Recommendation, the ITU has started the process of the development of IMT-2030. The IMT-2030 terrestrial radio interface specification is expected to be completed in 2030.  M.2160 describes these motivation and societal considerations, potential user and application trends, technology trends, spectrum harmonization and envisaged frequency bands. Also ITU-R Report M.2156 “Future technology trends of terrestrial IMT systems towards 2030 and beyond” and Report ITU-R M.2541 “Technical feasibility of IMT in bands above 100 GHz” details these expected trends and phenomena for IMT-2030.

The framework and objectives including overall timeframes for the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond are described in some detail in Recommendation ITU-R M.2160.

In order to fulfil these varied demands, Usage scenarios of IMT-2030 are envisioned to expand on those of IMT-2020 (i.e., eMBB, URLLC, and mMTC introduced in Recommendation ITU-R M.2083) into broader use requiring evolved and new capabilities. In addition to expanded IMT‑2020 usage scenarios, IMT-2030 is envisaged to enable new usage scenarios arising from capabilities, such as artificial intelligence and sensing, which previous generations of IMT were not designed to support. Figure 1. below illustrates the usage scenarios for IMT-2030.

Figure 1. Usage scenarios and overarching aspects of IMT-2030:

Capabilities of IMT-2030:

IMT-2030 is expected to provide enhanced capabilities compared to those described for IMT-2020 in Recommendation ITU-R M.2083, as well as new capabilities to support the expanded usage scenarios of IMT-2030. In addition, each capability could have different relevance and applicability in the different usage scenarios.

The range of values given for capabilities are estimated targets for research and investigation of IMT-2030. All values in the range have equal priority in research and investigation. For each usage scenario, a single or multiple values within the range would be developed in future in other ITU-R Recommendations/Reports. These values may further depend on certain parameters and assumptions including, but not limited to, frequency range, bandwidth, and deployment scenario. Further these values for the capabilities apply only to some of the usage scenarios and may not be reached simultaneously in a specific usage scenario.

The capabilities of IMT-2030 include:

1)                Peak data rate

Maximum achievable data rate under ideal conditions per device.  The research target of peak data rate would be greater than that of IMT-2020. Values of 50, 100, 200 Gbit/s are given as possible examples applicable for specific scenarios, while other values may also be considered.

2)                User experienced data rate

Achievable data rate that is available ubiquitously[1] across the coverage area to a mobile device. The research target of user experienced data rate would be greater than that of IMT-2020. Values of 300 Mbit/s and 500 Mbit/s are given as possible examples, while other values greater than these examples may also be explored and considered accordingly.

3)                Spectrum efficiency

Spectrum efficiency refers to average data throughput per unit of spectrum resource and per cell[2]. The research target of spectrum efficiency would be greater than that of IMT-2020. Values of 1.5 and 3 times greater than that of IMT-2020 could be a possible example, while other values greater than these examples may also be explored and considered accordingly.

4)                Area traffic capacity

Total traffic throughput served per geographic area. The research target of area traffic capacity would be greater than that of IMT-2020. Values of 30 Mbit/s/m2 and 50 Mbit/s/m2 are given as possible examples, while other values greater than these examples may also be explored and considered accordingly.

5)                Connection Density

Total number of connected and/or accessible devices per unit area.  The research target of connection density could be 106 – 108 devices/km2.

6)                Mobility

Maximum speed, at which a defined QoS and seamless transfer between radio nodes which may belong to different layers and/or radio access technologies (multi-layer/multi-RAT) can be achieved. The research target of mobility could be 500 – 1 000 km/h.

7)                Latency

Latency over the air interface refers to the contribution by the radio network to the time from when the source sends a packet of a certain size to when the destination receives it.  The research target of latency (over the air interface) could be 0.1 – 1 ms.

8)                Reliability

Reliability over the air interface relates to the capability of transmitting successfully a predefined amount of data within a predetermined time duration with a given probability.

The research target of reliability (over the air interface) could range from 1-10−5 to 1-10−7.

9)                Coverage

Coverage refers to the ability to provide access to communication services for users in a desired service area. In the context of this capability, coverage is defined as the cell edge distance of a single cell through link budget analysis.

10)              Positioning

Positioning is the ability to calculate the approximate position of connected devices. Positioning accuracy is defined as the difference between the calculated horizontal/vertical position and the actual horizontal/vertical position of a device.

The research target of the positioning accuracy could be 1 – 10 cm.

11)              Sensing-related capabilities

Sensing-related capabilities refer to the ability to provide functionalities in the radio interface including range/velocity/angle estimation, object detection, localization, imaging, mapping, etc. These capabilities could be measured in terms of accuracy, resolution, detection rate, false alarm rate, etc.

12)              Applicable AI-related capabilities

Applicable AI-related capabilities refer to the ability to provide certain functionalities throughout IMT-2030 to support AI enabled applications. These functionalities include, distributed data processing, distributed learning, AI computing, AI model execution, and AI model inference, etc.

13)              Security and resilience

In the context of IMT-2030:

−                 Security refers to preservation of confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information, such as user data and signalling, and protection of networks, devices and systems against cyberattacks such as hacking, distributed denial of service, man in the middle attacks, etc.

−                 Resilience refers to capabilities of the networks and systems to continue operating correctly during and after a natural or man-made disturbance, such as the loss of primary source of power, etc.

14)              Sustainability

Sustainability, or more specifically environmental sustainability, refers to the ability of both the network and devices to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts throughout their life cycle. Important factors include improving energy efficiency, minimizing energy consumption and the use of resources, for example by optimizing for equipment longevity, repair, reuse and recycling.

Energy efficiency is a quantifiable metric of sustainability. It refers to the quantity of information bits transmitted or received, per unit of energy consumption (in bit/Joule). Energy efficiency is expected to be improved appropriately with the capacity increase in order to minimize overall power consumption.

15)              Interoperability

Interoperability refers to the radio interface being based on member-inclusivity and transparency, so as to enable functionality(ies) between different entities of the system. The capabilities of IMT-2030 are shown in Figure 2. below.

FIGURE 2. Capabilities of IMT-2030:


[1]   The term “ubiquitous” is related to the considered target coverage area and is not intended to relate to an entire region or country.

[2] The coverage area over which a mobile terminal can maintain a connection with one or more units of radio equipment located within that area. For an individual base station, this is the coverage area of the base station or of a subsystem (e.g., sector antenna).

Relationship between existing IMT and IMT-2030:

In order to support emerging usage scenarios and applications for 2030 and beyond, it is foreseen that development of IMT-2030 would be required to offer enhanced capabilities as described in § 3. The values of these capabilities go beyond those described in Recommendation ITU-R M.2083. The minimum technical requirements (and corresponding evaluation criteria) are to be defined by ITU‑R based on these capabilities for IMT-2030. They could potentially be met by adding enhancements to existing IMT, incorporating new technology components and functionalities, and/or the development of new radio interface technologies. Furthermore, IMT-2030 is envisaged to interwork with existing IMT.


Separately, ATIS’ Next G Alliance (NGA) recently announced publication of Spectrum Needs for 6G, which assesses 6G spectrum needs based on scenario-specific key performance indicators and application-specific technical performance requirements.

The methodology used for estimating spectrum needs is based on the data rate requirements of 6G applications, with an emphasis on North American context and needs. The applications considered reflect the NGA’s collective efforts in establishing a comprehensive 6G roadmap.

“Proactively understanding next G spectrum needs and planning for them is essential to U.S. leadership in critical and emerging technologies,” said Next G Alliance Managing Director, David Young. “Decisions about the use of spectrum depend on multiple aspects and require time to be implemented. This paper achieves an understanding of 6G spectrum needs so that these needs are considered in the development of data-driven policies, regulatory decisions, and technical solutions.”


Highlights of 3GPP Stage 1 Workshop on IMT 2030 (6G) Use Cases

ITU-R WP5D invites IMT-2030 RIT/SRIT contributions

IMT-2030 Technical Performance Requirements (TPR) from ITU-R WP5D

ATIS’ Next G Alliance Maps the Spectrum Needs for the 6G Future

NGMN issues ITU-R framework for IMT-2030 vs ITU-R WP5D Timeline for RIT/SRIT Standardization

Draft new ITU-R recommendation (not yet approved): M.[IMT.FRAMEWORK FOR 2030 AND BEYOND]




IMT-2030 Technical Performance Requirements (TPR) from ITU-R WP5D

As defined in Resolution ITU-R 56-3, International Mobile Telecommunications-2030 (IMT-2030) systems are mobile systems that include new radio interface(s) which support enhanced capabilities and new capabilities beyond IMT‑2020, IMT-Advanced and IMT-2000. In Recommendation ITU-R M.2160 ‒ Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond, the capabilities of IMT-2030 are identified, which aims to make IMT-2030 more capable, flexible, reliable and secure than previous IMT systems when providing diverse and novel services in the intended six usage scenarios (see figure below), including immersive communication, hyper reliable and low‑latency communication (HRLLC), massive communication, ubiquitous connectivity, artificial intelligence and communication, and integrated sensing and communication (ISAC).

IMT-2030 is expected to support enriched and potential immersive experience, enhanced ubiquitous coverage, and enable new forms of collaboration. Furthermore, IMT-2030 is envisaged to support expanded and new usage scenarios compared to those of IMT-2020, while providing enhanced and new capabilities.​  In accordance with the IMT-2030 (6G) timeline within ITU-R, development of IMT-2030 Technical Performance Requirements (TPR) is expected to start in ITU-R Working Party 5D (WP 5D) at the February 2024 meeting in Geneva.

  • The IMT-2030 performance requirements are to be evaluated according to the criteria defined in Report ITU-R M.[IMT‑2030.EVAL] and Report ITU-R M.[IMT-2030.SUBMISSION] for the development of IMT-2030.
  • Recommendation ITU-R M.2160 defines fifteen key “Capabilities of IMT-2030,” which form a basis for the [x] technical performance requirements to be specified in the forthcoming draft document.

In order to facilitate the work of this important phase of IMT-2030 development, Apple, China, and India separately proposed outlines or suggestions for a working document towards a preliminary draft new report on technical performance requirements of IMT-2030.  Those contributions will be presented and discussed at the February 2024 ITU-R WP 5D meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

The proposed technical performance parameters include:

Peak data rate, Peak spectral efficiency,  User experienced data rate,  5th percentile user spectral efficiency, Average spectral efficiency, Area traffic capacity, Latency, User plane latency, Control plane latency, Connection density, Energy efficiency, Reliability, Mobility, Mobility interruption time, Bandwidth, Coverage, Positioning, Sensing, AI, Security,  Sustainability, and Interoperability.

This work will certainly refer to IMT-2030 set of expected capabilities are outlined in ITU-R M.2160 Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond, which was approved in November 2023.  A broad variety of capabilities associated with envisaged usage scenarios, are described in that recommendation.

Huge caveat It’s important to note that the IMT 2020 (5G) Technical Performance Parameters specified in ITU-R M.2410 for URLLC use case have STILL NOT BEEN achieved. Furthermore, the 3GPP spec for URLLC in the RAN has not been performance tested or submitted to ITU-R WP5D, even though it was “frozen” June 2020 in 3GPP Rel 16.  Hence, one must wonder if this proposed IMT 2030 Performance Parameter spec will be yet another “paper tiger?”


Draft new ITU-R recommendation (not yet approved): M.[IMT.FRAMEWORK FOR 2030 AND BEYOND]

IMT Vision – Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond

IMT 2020.SPECS approved by ITU-R but may not meet 5G performance requirements; no 5G frequencies (revision of M.1036); 5G non-radio aspects not included


Draft new ITU-R recommendation (not yet approved): M.[IMT.FRAMEWORK FOR 2030 AND BEYOND]


At its 44th meeting in June 2023, ITU-R WP 5D finalized development of a draft new Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT.FRAMEWORK FOR 2030 AND BEYOND] on “Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond.”  This draft recommendation is expected to be approved by year end 2023.

With the evolution of information and communications technologies, IMT-2030 is expected to support enriched and immersive experience, enhanced ubiquitous coverage, and enable new forms of collaboration. Furthermore, IMT-2030 is envisaged to support expanded and new usage scenarios compared to those of IMT-2020, while providing enhanced and new capabilities.

The objective of this Recommendation is to provide guidelines on the framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT-2030 (aka “6G”).

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.

Relationship between ITU-R (WP 5D) and 3GPP:

ITU-R WP 5D establishes the overall research and development direction, key performance indicators, as well as the standardization, commercialization, and spectrum roadmap for the new generation of IMT through a Framework Recommendation. It then moves on to defining the technical performance requirements to achieve the Framework.

After that, 3GPP develops detailed technical specifications that meet the requirements defined by the ITU-R recommendations and submits their specs to ITU-R WP5D (via ATIS) as a candidate radio interface technology.  5D then evaluates whether the 3GPP defined technology meets the requirements of the ITU-R (for 5G and presumably for 6G too). If it passes the evaluation process, it is approved as ITU-R Recommendation.

Figure 1. below shows these relationships:

Figure 1.  Relationship between ITU-R and 3GPP


Motivation and societal considerations:

The motivation for the development of IMT-2030 is to continue to build an inclusive information society and to support the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). To this end, IMT-2030 is expected to be an important enabler for achieving the following goals, among others:

Inclusivity: Bridging digital divides, to the maximum extent feasible, by ensuring access to meaningful connectivity to everyone.

Ubiquitous connectivity: To connect unconnected, IMT-2030 is expected to include affordable connectivity and, at minimum, basic broadband services with extended coverage, including sparsely populated areas.

Sustainability: Sustainability refers to the principle of ensuring that today’s actions do not limit the range of economic, social, and environmental options to future generations. IMT-2030 is envisaged to be built on energy efficiency, low power consumption technologies, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and use of resources under the circular economy model, in order to address climate change and contribute towards the achievement of current and future sustainable development goals.

Innovation: Fostering innovation with technologies that facilitate connectivity, productivity and the efficient management of resources. These technological advances will improve user experience and positively transform economies and lives everywhere.

Enhanced security, privacy and resilience: The future IMT system is expected to be secure and privacy-preserving by design. It is expected to have the ability to continue operating during and quickly recover from a disruptive event, whether natural or man-made. Making security, privacy and resilience key considerations in the design, deployment and operation of IMT-2030 systems is fundamental to achieving broader societal and economic goals.

Standardization and interoperability: To achieve wide industry support for IMT2030, future IMT systems are expected to be designed from the start to use transparently and member-inclusively standardized and interoperable interfaces, ensuring that different parts of the network, whether from the same or different vendors, work together as a fully functional system.

Interworking: IMT-2030 is expected to support service continuity and provide flexibility to users via close interworking with non-terrestrial network implementations, existing IMT systems and other non-IMT access systems. IMT-2030 is also expected to support smooth migration from existing IMT systems, where including support of connectivity to IMT-2020 and potentially IMT-Advanced devices will be advantageous for inclusivity.

User and application trends:   

Applications and services enabled by IMT-2030 are expected to connect humans, machines and various other things together. With the advances in human-machine interfaces, interactive and high-resolution video systems such as extended reality (XR) displays, haptic sensors and actuators, and/or multi-sensory (auditory, visual, haptic or gesture) interfaces, IMT-2030 is expected to offer humans immersive experiences that are virtually generated or happening remotely. On the other hand, machines are envisaged to be intelligent, autonomous, responsive, and precise due to advances in machine perception, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI). In the physical world, humans and machines are expected to continuously interact with each other, working with a digital world that extends the real world by using a large number of advanced sensors and AI. Such a digital world not only replicates but also affects the real world by providing virtual experiences to humans, and computation and control to machines.

IMT-2030 is expected to integrate sensing and AI-related capabilities into communication and serve as a fundamental infrastructure to enable new user and application trends. From these trends, it is expected that IMT-2030 provides a wide range of use cases while continuing to provide, inter alia,  direct voice support as an essential communication. Furthermore, IMT-2030 technology is expected to drive the next wave of digital economic growth, as well as sustainable far-reaching societal changes, digital equality and universal connectivity. IMT-2030 is expected to further enhance security, privacy, and resilience.

Source: Huawei


Technology trends:

Report ITU-R M.2516 provides a broad view of future technical aspects of terrestrial IMT systems considering the timeframe up to 2030 and beyond, characterized with respect to key emerging services, applications trends, and relevant driving factors. It comprises a toolbox of technological enablers for terrestrial IMT systems, including the evolution of IMT through advances in technology and their deployment. In the following sub-sections, a brief overview of emerging technology trends and enablers, technologies to enhance the radio interface, and technologies to enhance the radio network are presented.

Emerging technology trends and enablers:

IMT-2030 is expected to consider an AI-native new air interface that uses AI to enhance the performance of radio interface functions such as symbol detection/decoding, channel estimation etc. An AI-native radio network would enable automated and intelligent networking services such as intelligent data perception, supply of on-demand capability etc. Radio networks that support AI services would be fundamental to the design of IMT technologies to serve various AI applications, and the proposed directions include on-demand uplink/sidelink-centric, deep edge, and distributed machine learning including federated learning.

The integration of sensing and communication functions in IMT-2030 systems would give new capabilities, enable innovative services and applications, and provide solutions with a higher degree of sensing accuracy. It would lead to benefits in enhancing performance and reducing overall cost, size, and power consumption of both systems, when it is combined with technologies such as AI, network cooperation, and multi-nodes cooperative sensing.

Computing services and data services are expected to become an integral component of the IMT2030 system. It is expected to include processing data at the network edge close to the data source for real-time responses, low data transport costs, high energy efficiency and privacy protection, as well as scaling out device computing capability for advanced application computing workloads.

Device-to-device wireless communication with extremely high throughput, ultra-accuracy positioning and low latency would be an important communication paradigm for IMT-2030. Technologies such as THz technology, ultra-accuracy sidelink positioning, and enhanced terminal power reduction can be considered to support new applications.

Typical use cases for the 6 usage scenarios of IMT-2030:

Immersive Communication
  • Communication for immersive XR, remote multi-sensory telepresence, and holographic communications
  • Mixed traffic of video, audio, and other environmental data in a time-synchronized manner
  • Standalone support of voice
Massive Communication
  • Expanded and new applications such as in smart cities, transportation, logistics, health, energy, environmental monitoring, and agriculture
  • Applications requiring a variety of IoT devices without batteries or with long-life batteries
Hyper Reliable & Low-Latency Communication
  • Communications in an industrial environment for full automation, control, and operation
  • Facilitating applications such as robotic interactions, emergency services, telemedicine, and monitoring for electrical power transmission and distribution
Ubiquitous Connectivity
  • IoT communication
  • Mobile broadband communication
Integrated AI and Communication
  • IMT-2030 assisted automated driving
  • Autonomous collaboration between devices for medical assistance applications
  • Offloading of heavy computation operations across devices and networks
  • Creation of and prediction with digital twins
  • IMT-2030 assisted collaborative robots (cobots)
Integrated Sensing and Communication
  • IMT-2030 assisted navigation
  • Activity detection and movement tracking (e.g., posture/gesture recognition, fall detection, vehicle/pedestrian detection)
  • Environmental monitoring (e.g., rain/pollution detection)
  • Provision of sensing data/information on surroundings for AI, XR, and digital twin applications (e.g. environment reconstruction, sensing fusion)

Source: Huawei

The Figure below 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.

Source: Huawei

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.



IMT Vision – Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2030 and beyond

Summary of ITU-R Workshop on “IMT for 2030 and beyond” (aka “6G”)

China’s MIIT to prioritize 6G project, accelerate 5G and gigabit optical network deployments in 2023