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Satellite and Terrestrial Network for 5G

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Technology contributes to tomorrow’s full integration of satellite communications into 5G

Integrating satellite communications into 5G will create new business opportunities for key industry players, such as mobile network operators. An EU initiative addressed the technical challenges in realising cost effective, ‘plug and play’ satellite communication solutions for 5G.

Digital Economy

Satellite technology is necessary for a truly global 5G network to succeed. It can help ensure that the benefits of 5G are enjoyed to the edge of 5G networks so they can be delivered to mobile devices with little delay. The EU-funded SaT5G project researched, developed and validated key 5G technologies to take advantage of satellite communication capabilities, such as multicast for content and virtualised network function (VNF) delivery, and to mitigate constraints, such as latency. “The main aim was to contribute to the 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership, a joint initiative between the European Commission and European ICT industry to provide broadband access everywhere,” notes SaT5G coordinator Simon Watts.

Advancing satellite integration into 5G via standardisation

SaT5G has significantly contributed to the standardisation work on the integration of satellites in 5G systems at 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) by developing several technical reports and specifications. 3GPP is an initiative involving several standards organisations that develop protocols for mobile telecommunications. “This should be recognised as a ‘world premiere’, since it is the first time that cellular and satellite communications experts worked together on this topic in a standardisation body to this degree,” comments Watts. “Thanks to this effort, as well as standardisation activities at the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations and the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector, SaT5G has been a key enabler in pursuing the objective to establish the standardisation framework that ensures the full potential of integrated satellite communications in 5G networks.” SaT5G is the first project to integrate satellite and terrestrial 5G, and to demonstrate it with user applications over live geostationary equatorial orbit (GEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite links. The project conducted the first-of-its-kind, live over the-air demonstration trials for satellite integration into 5G over in-orbit GEO and MEO high-throughput satellite systems. MEO satellites handle very high-speed data. GEO satellites carry both high speed data and satellite television signals. To validate the developed technology, the SaT5G team integrated satellites into four live 5G network test beds. The team successfully demonstrated the integration of 3GPP into satellite links and the carrying of 5G services over satellite.

Value that satellite brings to the 5G ecosystem

Project partners demonstrated that satellites can play a major role in the wider roll-out of 5G networks to complete coverage. This helped to initiate new standardisation processes in 3GPP applying to satellites that will form the basis of future integrated networks. They also demonstrated that via multi-access edge computing at the edge of the network, new applications can benefit from incorporating satellites. “SaT5G gives new impetus to the satellite industry to join the European initiative in deploying a competitive and ubiquitous 5G network globally and to facilitate 100 % coverage of 5G,” concludes Watts. “This will benefit end users through greater levels of digital inclusion, greater service resilience and cost-effective delivery of content close to the edge for immediate high-speed access. Mobile network operators will also gain by allowing them easier standards based on access to satellite communications benefits.”

Keywords

SaT5G, satellite, 5G, satellite communications, 3GPP, coverage

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