Satellite companies for some time now have been anticipating a role in 5G, so the work that the 3GPP has been doing should come as no surprise.
3GPP has studied the roles and benefits of satellites in 5G in Release 14, recognizing the added value that satellite coverage brings as part of the mix of access technologies, especially for mission-critical and industrial applications where ubiquitous coverage is crucial.
According to 3GPP, the objective of TR 38.811 is to study channel models, to define the deployment scenarios as well as the related system parameters and to identify and assess potential key impact areas on the New Radio. In a second phase, it plans to evaluate and define solutions for the identified key impacts on RAN protocols/architecture.
Another study item on using satellite access in 5G is being addressed in Working Group SA1, which will lead to the delivery of the corresponding Technical Report TR 22.822 as part of Release 16. That study will identify use cases for the provision of services when considering the integration of 5G satellite-based access components in the 5G system.
At the same time some satellite companies want to work more closely with wireless carriers—OneWeb comes to mind as one example—there’s been a long and ongoing debate over spectrum and who should get access to it: satellite companies or wireless carriers. There also are proposals to share spectrum.
OneWeb founder Greg Wyler, who won the Fierce “Most Powerful Person In Telecom” tournament for 2017, outlined OneWeb’s progress for lawmakers during a Senate hearing late last year.
OneWeb is on a mission to bring high-speed internet to some of the most remote corners of the globe. Last year it received FCC approval to deploy a global network of 720 low-Earth orbit satellites using the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) frequency bands.
But that’s just one of the proposals to come before the commission. Several other projects, by the likes of SpaceX and Boeing, are on the drawing board, and efforts are being spearheaded by Wyler to ensure safety requirements are created so that collisions don’t occur in space. Managing space debris is a top priority as a single impact in space could cause thousands of debris fragments to derail everything.