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Drivers for Successful Integration of Satellites into the 5G Future

The promises of a 5G network include faster speeds, reduced latency, and the ability to connect the Internet of Things (IoT)—essentially billions of devices—without bogging it down. However, vast areas of the global community are likely to face challenges in joining the 5G revolution. Satellite presents a valuable solution for connecting the unconnected today and into the 5G future – whether directly or as part of the ubiquitous, interconnected, global “network of networks.”

The Role of Satellites in 5G

Satellites have a critical and unique role to play in the 5G future because they can bring Internet connectivity to a large percentage of the world’s population that has yet to be connected. Satellite plays an essential role in offloading traffic from terrestrial networks in urban and suburban settings during peak hours to alleviate congestion. Plus, they provide increased resiliency with the ability to backup traffic from terrestrial networks during disasters or when connections are interrupted. As part of the larger network of networks, satellites also fill connectivity voids as users move in and out of terrestrial coverage areas, and bring high speed connections to vehicles, ships and airplanes through seamless handovers from one network to another.

Key Drivers for Integration

Whether 5G achieves its destiny as a fully integrated network of networks, with satellite helping to fulfill its promises, comes down to five innovations across the satellite ecosystem. Already well underway, these innovations include:

  1. High-Throughput Technology. Traditional satellites cannot deliver the data speeds required to support 5G. However, new generation High-Throughput Satellites (HTS) can and will. In fact, there have been significant advances that will enable 5G-like services over satellite, a complement to 5G terrestrial services. These include features like software-defined and flexible payloads and operation in Q- and V-band for higher data rates.
  2. Smart and Flexible Ground Systems. To support these satellites, new ground systems require intelligence and flexibility for efficient use of bandwidth and to deliver quality of service at the right cost. Gateways with network functions virtualization and application layers in the Cloud cut down on hardware, simplify operations by automating network configuration and management tasks, allow greater scalability, and significantly cut down costs and improve deployment time for applications or network expansion.
  3. Mobile Edge Computing and Content Caching. These features help bridge the gap in quality of experience for users connected with satellite backhaul as compared with those using terrestrial backhaul. Both will help to reduce latency, increase delivery speed, and bridge the gap in service access between terrestrial and satellite backhauled locations. Together, they will contribute to significant bandwidth and cost savings.
  4. Seamless Interoperability and Integration with Terrestrial Networks, so that ideally, the provisioning of services and capabilities can be done independent of network type and without additional overhead.
  5. Standards. Continued work must be done by standards bodies to support the convergence of satellite and terrestrial technologies for 5G and beyond. Much has been done to define use cases for satellite, including to address scalability and service ubiquity to underserved areas and to support public safety.

As the world embraces the 5G future and races to supply the connectivity necessary to meet the burgeoning demand for bandwidth, satellite will play an essential part. For more about how a 5G of the future demands the inherent advantages of satellite, watch this on-demand presentation.