Planning ahead – can societies depend on 6G?

03 July 2024

In a world where connectivity is essential but not yet ubiquitous, where development timescales are long and expectations high – and sometimes not met – we have learned that it is crucial to be in at the beginning if user requirements for critical communications in next generation mobile broadband are to be included in what are overwhelmingly consumer-focused technologies. Unlike narrowband technologies such as TETRA specifically designed for critical communications, the broadband world has, to date, been built on consumer expectations.

So, while 6G may seem a long way away, particularly for regions of the world where basic mobile coverage is still a challenge, TCCA has already agreed its 6G position, with support from other interested stakeholders, and is involved already in the early stages of specifications.


In December 2023, The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) published the IMT2030 framework for the development of standards and radio interface technologies for the sixth generation of mobile systems, popularly referred to as 6G. With the evolution of information and communications technologies, IMT2030 is expected to support enriched and potential immersive experience, enhanced ubiquitous coverage, and enable new forms of collaboration, support expanded and new usage scenarios and enhanced and new capabilities. But, in terms of critical communications, are these the most important things required by societies? Because for users, it’s all about trust.

Giving vertical sectors a voice

As Market Representation Partner (MRP) for critical communications in 3GPP, the organisation responsible for the creation of the global mobile broadband standard, TCCA has submitted input as to user requirements for 6G in terms of critical communications. 3GPP works to submit 6G standard IMT2030 proposals to ITU before the end of the decade.

TCCA’s expectations from 6G for critical communications were put forward at the 3GPP Stage 1 workshop on IMT2030 use cases, which took place in May 2024. TCCA was one of six vertical sectors proposing use cases and requirements for 6G. The workshop objective was to bring 3GPP closer to the ongoing initiatives of various global and regional research organisations and MRPs related to 6G. The collaborative effort is of utmost importance as the 3GPP working group SA1 undertakes the task of defining the requirements and use cases for 6G, conducting studies in Release 20 and normative work in Release 21.

The connection is the lifeline

When submitting our use cases on behalf of the critical communications sector, TCCA posed the question ‘Can societies depend on 6G?’

There is a large degree of crystal ball gazing here, as we do not know exactly what society will look like in the next decade when 6G will be emerging. What is certain though, is that the core critical communications requirements will remain unchanged. Those requirements are coverage – availability – resilience – performance – and scalability. 24/7. With instant connectivity. The connection is the lifeline.

Critical communications users working in public safety: police, fire & rescue, ambulance services; border control, the military; in the transport sector, on the railways, buses, highways, airports, ports; in critical infrastructure: power, heat, water; in resource industries: oil & gas, mining; in manufacturing, at major events – critical communications are needed everywhere when communications are critical.

3GPP has addressed many of the critical communications functional requirements Release by Release starting from Release 12 with 4G continuing to add capabilities like Non-Terrestrial-Networks (NTN) and Device-to-Device communication multi-hop over 5G sidelink in Release 19 that is currently being worked on. Whilst this has happened, societies and economies have become more and more dependent on mobile communications, requiring the service to be holistically more reliable and available.

Enhancing the level of trust

TCCA obviously doesn’t have a crystal ball, but it’s a fair bet to say that reliance on connectivity will only increase into the future. For our input into 3GPP, we set out some principles for 6G as it should relate to critical communications.

6G should maximise the relevance of 3GPP systems for critical communications – introducing new capabilities while leveraging the existing ecosystem, including seamless integration with 4G and 5G and backwards capability at service level.

The 6G standard should simplify the introduction of solutions for critical communications by ensuring that it provides a common suite of capabilities applicable across as many critical communications vertical markets as possible, and maximise commonalities between those verticals and others to ensure economies of scale and the widest available markets.

Above all, 6G should enhance the level of trust users have with the system, for mission and safety-critical operations.

This means end-to-end service guarantees, and efficient ways to track and observe service performance and automatically take corrective actions. Using AI and ML tools, it should be possible to enhance the differentiation and handling of mission critical traffic.

6G needs to deliver efficient solutions for providing coverage everywhere – including in the most remote and rural areas, and in challenging propagation scenarios. In parallel, it should enable simplified deployment and operation, with interoperability within and across networks, including mission critical roaming scenarios.

For resilience and robustness, 6G should have architecture and deployment options for efficient redundancy and have standards ready for leveraging secure cloud-native tools for improved resilience. And of course, the highest levels of security.

Just take moment to think of the change in your world – and in the whole world – if there was suddenly no mobile connectivity. How many processes would fail. How many supply chains would crumble. How many actions that we simply take for granted – simply couldn’t happen. What would still work?

6G is the first standard where trust could be the design principle to answer to the needs of the connected world in the 2040s. In TCCA, and with other stakeholders in critical communications, we are working to ensure that. Join us on the mission.