Ericsson and Thales are planning to take 5G out of this world and across a network of Earth-orbiting satellites. After having each conducted detailed research which included multiple studies and simulations, the parties plan to enter smartphone-use-case-focused testing and validation of 5G non-terrestrial networks (5G NTN).
The result could effectively mean that a future 5G smartphone could use 5G connectivity anywhere on Earth and provide complete global coverage for wideband data services, including places normally only covered by legacy satellite phone systems with limited data connectivity capabilities.
The benefits of 5G connectivity via low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are expected to include coverage in extreme geographies or remote areas across seas, oceans and other locations where terrestrial coverage is absent.
Such widespread connectivity would boost 5G smartphone subscriber roaming service capabilities, as well as enabling global connectivity for transportation, energy, and health sector 5G use cases.
The space-based network could also be used as back-up support to terrestrial networks in the event of major network outages or disasters.
The expected security capabilities of 5G NTNs mean that national government communications may be a main use case, to enhance safe and secure national security and public safety government networks.
Erik Ekudden, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Ericsson, said, “This testing and validation cooperation between Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies will be a major milestone in the history of communications as the ultimate result could effectively mean that no matter where you are on Earth – in the middle of an Ocean or the remotest forest – high-end, secure and cost-effective connectivity will be available through collaborative 5G satellite and terrestrial connectivity.”
John Smee, senior vice president of engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., said,“For 5G to fulfill on the promise of ubiquitous connectivity, it is imperative that it can also deliver network coverage in areas where terrestrial cellular networks do not exist, whether that be over oceans or in remote areas. Our planned research with Ericsson and Thales will kick off an important step in making this vital technology a reality. We are looking forward to what this collaboration can accomplish.”
Philippe Keryer, Executive Vice-President, Strategy, Research and Technology, Thales said, “The deployment of 5G networks marks a step change for the telecoms industry. It is a game changer, not only in terms of business opportunities but also in the skills required to connect and protect billions of people and things. Thales is deeply involved in it through the different activities of the Group. The research collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies will demonstrate the belief of our companies that 5G non-terrestrial Networks will contribute to this revolution and will take network resiliency and security to the next level. “