With increased participation from industry stakeholders, 3GPP reported study groups are working to sort out the role satellite and other non-terrestrial networks will play in 5G.
The standards body already studied the benefits of satellites for 5G as part of Release 14 and said it’s now moving ahead with at least two study items to work out the technical aspects of integrating satellite networks into 5G deployments. One study item, known as TR 38.811 (pictured, below), seeks in its first phase to define deployment scenarios and related system parameters, as well as gain more information on channel models. The second phase of the study will tackle evaluation and definition of RAN protocols and architecture.
Another item, 3GPP’s Study on using Satellite Access in 5G, aims to identify use cases for the provision of services using integrated satellite-based access. This includes the identification of new and existing services and their requirements; set-up, configuration and maintenance requirements; and regulatory issues which arise when switching between satellite and terrestrial networks. The group’s conclusions are expected to be revealed as part of Release 16.
The push to study satellites’ role in 5G comes as companies like OneWeb and Elon Musk-backed SpaceX move toward deployment of low earth orbit satellite networks to provide broadband internet across the globe. OneWeb is backed by a number of high-profile companies including SoftBank, Qualcomm, Virgin Group, Airbus Group, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat and Bharti Enterprises, among others.
3GPP said the incorporation of satellite networks will help enable 5G service rollouts in un- and under-served areas, enhance reliability and increase service availability everywhere to the benefit of critical communications and transportation applications.