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Equipment vendor Ericsson, and chipmaker Qualcomm are collaborating with French aerospace company Thales to take 5G into space. The plan consists of taking the revolutionary cellular technology beyond the earth and across a network of Earth-orbiting satellites.
The companies have already concluded research for the project. Now, they are planning to start smartphone-use-case-focused testing and validation of 5G non-terrestrial networks (5G NTN).
The 5G airwaves working in space means in the future 5G smartphones would access 5G networks anywhere. Likewise, it would also provide global coverage for wideband data services. This includes the places which only work on legacy satellites with low connectivity.
The 5G signals coming from the Low Earth Orbit satellite will provide coverage in remote geography, seas, oceans, and adverse locations.
Further, a ubiquitous 5G reach means 5G roaming service will increase significantly. This will also benefit transportation, energy, and health services. The result is more 5G use cases and with more efficiency.
At the same time, the 5G from space will be helpful as a backup for terrestrial networks during network outages and calamities.
Erik Ekudden, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Ericsson, says: “This testing and validation cooperation between Ericsson, Thales, and Qualcomm Technologies will be a major milestone in the history of communications as the ultimate result could effectively mean that no matter where you are on Earth – in the middle of an ocean or the remotest forest – high-end, secure and cost-effective connectivity will be available through collaborative 5G satellite and terrestrial connectivity.”
John Smee, senior vice president of engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., says: “For 5G to fulfill the promise of ubiquitous connectivity, it is imperative that it can also deliver network coverage in areas where terrestrial cellular networks do not exist, whether that be over oceans or in remote areas. Our planned research with Ericsson and Thales will kick off an important step in making this vital technology a reality. We are looking forward to what this collaboration can accomplish.”
Philippe Keryer, Executive Vice-President, Strategy, Research and Technology, Thales, says, “The deployment of 5G networks marks a step change for the telecoms industry. It is a game changer, not only in terms of business opportunities but also in the skills required to connect and protect billions of people and things. Thales is deeply involved in it through the different activities of the Group. The research collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies will demonstrate the belief of our companies that 5G non-terrestrial Networks will contribute to this revolution and will take network resiliency and security to the next level.“
The testing and validation of the space-based 5G by Ericsson, Thales, and Qualcomm is intended to support non-terrestrial networks for the first time. The testing and validation received the green signal from 3GPP which is the global telecommunications standards body.
Besides, the testings will validate various technology components that will help switch on 5G non-terrestrial networks. This ranges from 5G smartphones, satellite payloads, and 5G network pieces on the ground.
Similarly, this also seeks to validate that 5G NTN can be supported in a smartphone form factor that allows future 5G smartphones to become satellite phones.
The first tests will take place in an emulated space environment in France. This is because most of the Space-focused industries lie there.
Ericsson plans to verify a 5G virtual RAN (vRAN) stack, that handles radio signals propagating via the fast-moving LEO satellites.
Meanwhile, Thales plans to verify a 5G radio satellite payload suitable for deployment on LEO satellites. The US chipmaker Qualcomm, on the other hand, will provide test phones to verify that future 5G smartphones can access 5G NTN.
Similarly, the experts will use ground-based equipment for emulation of the 5G signals and time delays between an equipped satellite in orbit and connecting a 5G phone with a 5G RAN at various places on Earth’s surface.
Ekudden adds: “While it is too early to say when any resulting 5G equipped prototype satellite could be launched into orbit for real operational use, the highly technical ground-based testing and validation work planned between Ericsson, Thales, and Qualcomm Technologies is key to making it happen.”
With the backing of the 3GPP, 5G NTNs will capitalize on a large ecosystem of standard products and components. The new standards will also enable the inclusion of NTN technologies in the 5G devices. This will provide opportunities for technology vendors to easily scale 5G NTN compatibility across devices. Don’t miss: 4G vs. 5G: Differences Between Two Mobile Networks
5G development is accelerating worldwide and in a few years, the global broadband connectivity could widen to an extraordinary extent. Would the hyperconnected world excite you or are you rather content with the current and “sufficient” 4G network? Do share in the comments below.
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