6G and the UN SDGs

Sustainability has entered all aspects of life, calling for an active approach from the wireless and mobile communications community to help in solving fundamental challenges facing societies. Societal, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability have become increasingly important design criteria in developing future technologies, along with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) framework that sets specific goals and targets to be achieved by 2030. The role of mobile communications is important in supporting nations and organizations in meeting the UN SDGs in a timely manner, but the whole ICT sector itself, with its critical role as the backbone of society, can create a significant sustainability burden. Research on the next-generation mobile communication networks (6G) has started, aiming at first deployments in 2030, in a new era where sustainability defines its development. Therefore, sustainability, especially through the UN SDGs, and the future 6G wireless networks, cannot be treated in isolation, but a clear connection between them is urgently needed. This paper extends from traditional green communications and energy efficiency considerations in wireless communications to establishing a close connection between 6G and the triple bottom line of economic sustainability, societal sustainability, and environmental sustainability. The paper outlines open research challenges for sustainable 6G development and provides a set of research questions encouraging especially the researchers and engineers in the wireless and mobile communications community to address to realize a sustainable future.