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Cooperative network coding has been proposed as an effective solution to improve system performance. Through collaborative network coding in the intermediate node(s) instead of direct forwarding, the transmission reliability, efficiency, and security can be enhanced significantly. Although extensive research activity on the cooperative network coding has been reported in the literature, most works focused only on their technical analyses, and no effort has been made so far on its applications in IMT-Advanced systems. In this article, we take a first look at possible application scenarios in order to design the needed protocols for cooperative network coding in futuristic wireless communication systems. The architectures of cooperative network coding schemes are presented in this article for their possible applications in two-way, multiple access, and multicast cooperative relays. The key techniques for implementing these three network coded cooperative relay schemes are identified, and their performances are evaluated. At the end of this article, the major challenges in terms of technical standardization that may affect the application of cooperative network coding in the IMT-Advanced systems are discussed as well.