Etsi calls for NTN standardisation for 6G

  • April 17, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

Telecom standards organisation Etsi has called for standardisation in non-terrestrial networks (NTNs) so they can deliver a fully connected planet for tomorrow’s global 6G networks.

This month’s first Etsi Conference on Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) stressed the importance of technical standardisation. Held earlier this month at Etsi’s Sophia Antipolis headquarters in France, the event was co-organised with the European Space Agency (ESA), the 6G Smart Networks & Services Industry Association (6G-IA) and the Smart Networks & Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU).

Titled Non-Terrestrial Networks, a Native Component of 6G, the two-day conference attracted over 200 participants from 25 countries, including experts in standardisation and research as well as industrial representation from the mobile, satellite and wider space industries. Delegates shared perspectives on NTN use cases, candidate technology, current research status and standardisation roadmaps.

Day one sessions focused on the opportunities and challenges of integrating terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks within tomorrow’s global communications landscape. The second day afforded a deep dive into numerous NTN and 6G research and development initiatives in Europe and around the world.

NTNs are wireless communication platforms operating above the surface of the Earth, typically achieved using satellites in low, medium or geostationary orbit as well as drones, high altitude platforms (HAPS) and other aerial systems. A component of 5G since 3GPP Release 17, NTN offers seamless global coverage to support a wide range of communication applications that demand high availability and resilience.

NTN will also be a crucial element of tomorrow’s 6G communication ecosystem. Currently the subject of early pre-standardisation discussions in 3GPP, 6G will feature native integration of NTN from the outset, allowing optimisation of service delivery via terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks in 6G. 6G NTN is also anticipated to provide increased performance and service capabilities compared with NTN in 5G.

“NTN is already well recognised as a pivotal part of the 6G story, with its development supported by significant long-term investments by Europe’s R&D communities,” said Luis Jorge Romero, Etsi ( director general. “The successful realisation of NTN depends on effective collaboration between terrestrial and non-terrestrial communities, supported by dialogue between industry, standardisation groups, and research and academia. The key enablers for NTN’s success in 6G include a flexible regulatory and licensing environment that provides timely access to sufficient globally harmonised spectrum, all underpinned by robust technology standards that support smooth integration of cost-effective, reliable and interoperable NTN and TN within the timeframe for 6G as envisaged by 3GPP.”

Antonio Franchi, head of the 5G and 6G NTN programme at ESA (, added: “The satellite community’s proactive engagement in 3GPP has already led to the inclusion of NTN since Release 17, driving the active endorsement of NTN by terrestrial stakeholders and a wide range of verticals. From this baseline, industry must now focus on the development of flexible, resilient technologies that are cost-effective, secure, providing global coverage, freely scalable and energy efficient, by extending the presence of NTN in 3GPP, including all satellite frequency bands, broadband and narrowband services, with transparent and regenerative satellite payloads.”

Ad Javier Albares Bueno from the SNS-JU ( said: “What’s particularly exciting is the vast array of future NTN use cases and applications that are yet to be discovered. As we pave the way to an even more connected and resilient future, it’s essential that significant investment in innovation is channelled into tangible objectives, including standards, infrastructure deployments and timely commercialisation of NTN services.”

Colin Willcock, chair of 6G-IA (, added: “Multiple research and innovation projects are working on the technologies that will eventually shape 6G standards, with NTN as a native component. Europe must consolidate its NTN leadership position with an open and collaborative R&D approach, bringing together industry and academic work leveraged through standardisation. 6G-IA is committed to this objective.”