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Satellite Connections Are Critical Elements of the New 5G Networks


Cellular companies rolling out the fifth generation of wireless radio technology have created a lot of buzz with promises to their customers of higher speed and greater bandwidth. The expansion of 5G is moving at a slow but steady pace as wireless providers install the additional antennas and other ground equipment required for customers to take full advantage of the new technology.

Drawing less attention is the importance of satellite connectivity in enabling 5G networks to move the additional voice, video and data that customers will be downloading and creating. The 5G technology is like having high-speed Wi-Fi everywhere, enabling truly hybrid networks where fiber, wireless, and satellite connections operate as a single, seamless communications medium.

The equipment created for 5G also can be used to enable private 5G networks. Large organizations like national retailers can use their own networks to connect their stores and warehouses anywhere in the world. Transportation companies can monitor global traffic and individual shipments. And military services can use these private 5G networks for tasks such as flight-line operations and aircraft maintenance, both on land and at sea.

Satellites will play a critical role in being able to fully unlock the potential of new 5G networks:

  • While most urban areas are well-wired with terrestrial cable, rural locations will depend on satellite connections to enable broadband internet access. Satellite also supports mobility coverage for vehicles, ships, and airplanes to fill in gaps between terrestrial connectivity. The increased amount and density of data will make reliable coverage impossible without satellites.

  • 5G technology uses smaller cells than previous generations of wireless radio technology, and thus requires more antennas. In rural areas, satellites are often the backbone of cellular backhaul moving data from the antennas to the core of the network. This role will become even more important using 5G.

  • Because they are already in place, satellites provide an overlay to the ground network and can be used to augment ground coverage or replace it during network outages following natural or man-made disasters.

Satellites in multiple orbit planes will be important pieces of any 5G network, with those in Geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) providing coverage over wide regions and those in Low-earth orbit (LEO) handling applications that require low latency. For instance, in a private 5G deployment Hughes is leading for a U.S. naval air base, both GEO and LEO connectivity are built into the configuration, enabling global connectivity and resiliency.