5G approaches the point in its timeline when correspondent networks and devices are ready to materialize the concept at the scale needed to support viable communications. As it does, we get closer to seeing the related concepts and hypothesis come into practice.
Satellite solutions, in view of this, are expected to gain momentum over their terrestrial counterparts, with a special focus on backhaul solutions. Various debates, events and materials revolve around satellite networks. Some say that 5G needs to tap into satellite bandwidth, regardless of the alignment (or the lack of it), between the two. However, the satellite communications ecosystem does make essential steps towards preparing for the 5G age. The specialists study the challenges and debate the best ways of overcoming them. New alliances get forged. Various partners to this endeavor started testing the most viable solutions.
On this background, the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (European Space Agency) whitepaper (2016), aiming to position the satellite-terrestrial integration opportunities in the 5G environment proves an interesting read.
We selected the main 5G promises from this whitepaper. Most of them are in the same time real challenges from a tech perspective. Perhaps you will find the following highlights insightful.
The main 5G challenges, according to ARTES (ESA)
“To make the best use of the 5G radio low latency the end-to-end service level communication has to have also a low latency”. This is achievable by “moving the functionality to the edge of the network, at a location close to the termination of the very low delay 5G radio network”. The backhauling therefore needs to be reliable, secure, and safe – 3 characteristics satellite networks can provide.
Edge nodes that supports on demand, flexible deployments
This involves distributing the data in a uniform manner to a high number of edge nodes. Again, the satellites having native, large-scale broadcasting mechanisms comes in handy.
Security and privacy concerns
Since a satellite network provider covers large geographical areas, using this environment can surpass the fragmentation of security and privacy aspects coming from local/regional peering.
Network resilience and availability
Again, fragmentation and lack of availability is more likely to appear in terrestrial networks. On the other hand, satellites have a high availability rate.
Mobility support for a large number of use cases
Going beyond what the current technology supports, 5G needs to provide the backbone for global connectivity, as well as high speed platforms (automotive, trains, planes). Delivering a flawless experience for the mix of low speed mobile devices and high speed mobility comes back to the efficiency of satellites, again.
Addressing a very high number of devices, whilst in the same time constantly delivering common services (such as updates)
Satellite backhaul could handle the extra data traffic, in addition to the regular demand in the system. Alternatively, an integrated satellite-terrestrial solution could share the load.
Software-delivered new transmission protocols, features and capabilities
Software-defined means of delivering the flexibility 5G promises are key. The same piece of software needs to be able to handle different communication technologies, given the right parametrizations. This demands for satellite networks convergence.
Sharing an unified single infrastructure
Full convergence points again towards an integrated satellite- terrestrial infrastructure. Completed with a dynamic selection of the specific data transport means to use, sharing this structure should decrease costs and allow the involved parties to focus on development, instead of competition.
Terrestrial infrastructure needs energy input at a local level, otherwise it cannot function. Broadcasting data to a high number of devices by using a satellite network should reduce the energy consumption required by communications.