A Primer on Rate-Splitting Multiple Access: Tutorial, Myths, and Frequently Asked Questions

Bruno Clerckx, Yijie Mao, Eduard A. Jorswieck, Jinhong Yuan, David J. Love, Elza Erkip, Dusit Niyato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rate-Splitting Multiple Access (RSMA) has emerged as a powerful multiple access, interference management, and multi-user strategy for next generation communication systems. In this tutorial, we depart from the orthogonal multiple access (OMA) versus non-orthogonal multiple access (NOMA) discussion held in 5G, and the conventional multi-user linear precoding approach used in space-division multiple access (SDMA), multi-user and massive MIMO in 4G and 5G, and show how multi-user communications and multiple access design for 6G and beyond should be intimately related to the fundamental problem of interference management. We start from foundational principles of interference management and rate-splitting, and progressively delineate RSMA frameworks for downlink, uplink, and multi-cell networks. We show that, in contrast to past generations of multiple access techniques (OMA, NOMA, SDMA), RSMA offers numerous benefits: 1) enhanced spectral, energy and computation efficiency; 2) universality by unifying and generalizing OMA, SDMA, NOMA, physical-layer multicasting, multi-user MIMO under a single framework that holds for any number of antennas at each node (SISO, SIMO, MISO, and MIMO settings); 3) flexibility by coping with any interference levels (from very weak to very strong), network loads (underloaded, overloaded), services (unicast, multicast), traffic, user deployments (channel directions and strengths); 4) robustness to inaccurate channel state information (CSI) and resilience to mixed-critical quality of service; 5) reliability under short channel codes and low latency. We then discuss how those benefits translate into numerous opportunities for RSMA in over forty different applications and scenarios of 6G, e.g., multi-user MIMO with statistical/quantized CSI, FDD/TDD/cell-free massive MIMO, millimeter wave and terahertz, cooperative relaying, physical layer security, reconfigurable intelligent surfaces, cloud-radio access network, internet-of-things, massive access, joint communication and jamming, non-orthogonal unicast and multicast, multigroup multicast, multibeam satellite, space-air-ground integrated networks, unmanned aerial vehicles, integrated sensing and communications, grant-free access, network slicing, cognitive radio, optical/visible light communications, mobile edge computing, machine/federated learning, etc. We finally address common myths and answer frequently asked questions, opening the discussions to interesting future research avenues. Supported by the numerous benefits and applications, the tutorial concludes on the underpinning role played by RSMA in next generation networks, which should inspire future research, development, and standardization of RSMA-aided communication for 6G.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1265-1308
Number of pages44
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2023


  • 6G
  • Rate-splitting
  • interference management
  • multi-user MIMO
  • next generation multiple access
  • non orthogonal multiple access
  • rate-splitting multiple access
  • space division multiple access

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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