SaT5G Consortium demos make case for 5G over satellite

SES’s O3b MEO constellation was part of a demo showcasing airplane connectivity as part of a combined satellite and 5G terrestrial network. (SES)

The SaT5G Consortium, a group of satellite communications operators, mobile operators and cellular network researchers working on satcom solutions for 5G, held several successful demos at the 2019 European Conference on Networks and Communications (EuCNC 2019) in Valencia, Spain this week.


The SaT5G project, which was launched in 2017 with funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, is working on developing plug-and-play satcom systems for 5G. The consortium is comprised of 16 partners from nine European countries plus Israel.


“SaT5G is about integrating satellite links with heavy emphasis on standardization to allow trusted operation and to facilitate industry adoption,” said Mike Fitch, technical manager of SaT5G, in a statement. “The focus is on eMBB to fixed and mobile networks, including support for orchestration and slicing, with the satellite links providing backhaul connectivity either alone or in parallel (multilink) connectivity with terrestrial links.”


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At EuCNC, SaT5G conducted six demonstrations showcasing 5G use cases over satellite, ranging from video streaming, content caching, airline connectivity, 5G NR over satellite and backhaul applications.


The group held an over-the-air multi-access edge computing-based demo involving layered 4K video streaming over a 5G multilink satellite and terrestrial network. The trial used an Avanti high-throughput HYLAS 4 GEO satellite, VT iDirect’s 5G-enabled satellite hub platform and satellite terminals, and the University of Surrey’s 5G testbed network. The three companies also participated in a demo showcasing over-the-air multicast over satellite video for caching and live content delivery, using Broadpeak’s CDN.


In an airplane connectivity demo, the group used SES’s O3b medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellation and Gilat Satellite Networks’ Taurus VSAT unit and virtualized satellite hub to demonstrate virtualized services for content distribution to airplanes using a combined satellite and terrestrial 5G network. The demo used Zodiac Inflight Innovations’ virtualized A320 airplane cabin mock-up and connectivity infrastructure, Broadpeak’s content delivery platform and i2CAT’s terrestrial satellite resource coordinator.


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The project also showcased two use cases involving hybrid satellite and 5G backhaul networks. One was a demonstration of local MEC content caching using an established satellite and terrestrial backhaul link with User Plane Function (UPF) situated at a MEC node for content delivery. The UPF is able to handle requests for the local content by selecting between satellite or terrestrial links depending on network characteristics such as available capacity, network policy and link performance. TNO, who conducted the demo, used a satellite emulator testbed.


In the second demo, transport supplier Ekinops showcased hybrid 5G backhauling for extending services for rural markets and big venue events. It used multipath protocols and combined satellite-terrestrial link bandwidths for fast upload and download traffic and terrestrial link low latency for interactive traffic.


Finally, Finland’s University of Oulu highlighted 5G NR over satellite networks in a video demonstration at the event with Thales Alenia Space. The two companies showed the possibility of applying 5G NR over satellite links for future satellite systems.