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Satellite Solutions for 5G

5G is being portrayed as the future network of networks, so the satellite industry is keen to ensure its valuable contributions are not frozen out of this ecosystem due to technical standards.

The development of 5G services is being portrayed as the future network of networks, so the satellite industry is keen to ensure its valuable contributions are not frozen out of this ecosystem due to technical standards designed only for terrestrial systems. A strong move in that direction was taken on May 18, when the Electronic Communications Committee of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) approved a report long in the making, titled “Satellite Solutions for 5G.”

The May report “gives an overview of the key capabilities of 5G systems” while also focusing “on the role that satellite based-solutions can play in deployment of 5G applications,” according to CEPT. An important conclusion is that incorporating the use of satellites in the 5G ecosystem will accelerate 5G commercial development anywhere in the world.

The report will permit CEPT to address satellite solutions “in the context of the greater 5G ecosystem” and as part of the CEPT roadmap for 5G. The significance of the report transcends Europe, as it provides a roadmap for integrating satellite services into the greater ecosystem.

The report identifies four main use cases, consisting of communications on the move, hybrid multiplay, trunking and head-end feed, and backhauling and tower feed. Communications on the move means connectivity for aircraft, ships, and land vehicles. The report makes it clear that “connecting transport systems via satellite is nothing new,” as millions of airline customers already receive communication services on board aircraft using satellite links.

Hybrid multiplay is an extension of the role satellite already plays in the delivery of video content to hundreds of millions of households worldwide. The report recognizes that video content is expected to represent “more than 80 percent of global internet traffic, including on mobile networks.” This demand can only be met by efficient use of multicasting and unicasting and caching, much like satellite systems deliver today.

Trunking and head-end feed involves high-speed delivery of content to a central site, from where the content can be distributed to local cell sites. Examples include broadband connectivity to remote areas, community 5G Wi-Fi with satellite links, and disaster relief or emergency response.

Backhauling and tower feed is a well-known existing satellite service, which can be expected to expand with the large number of individual terrestrial 5G cells. The report notes that ultra-low latency applications will be enabled by moving content and computing power closer to the edge of the network. This type of demand creates a new role for satellites to connect and update edge servers.

5G proponents are aiming for ultra-reliable, low latency, ubiquitous services. Satellite proponents are convinced that these goals cannot be met without including satellites in the mix. The report notes that not all 5G applications have both extreme bandwidth and low latency requirements. Certain services may need the bandwidth, but not the latency requirement (example being video delivery) or low bandwidth with minimal latency requirement (example of Internet of Things sensors). Taking into account various permutations of bandwidth, ubiquity, and latency creates important roles for satellites in 5G usage scenarios.

Final sections of the report conclude with a high level overview of various frequency bands with satellite allocations, then a list of technical and standardization issues that must be considered in order to include satellite solutions in the 5G ecosystem. VS