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Home » 5G » Why satellite tech and 5G make a powerful combination

Noemi de Hevia Mendez

Senior Consultant, 5G, CGI UK

Andrew Palmer

Consulting Director, Telecoms, CGI UK

Satellite networks offer huge opportunities to the 5G market, say Noemi de Hevia Mendez and Andrew Palmer from IT and business consulting services firm, CGI UK.

Why should satellite be considered as part of the 5G ecosystem?

Noemi: There’s a huge amount of traffic on terrestrial networks – and not just in urban areas. There’s traffic demand everywhere. Of course, it’s not only people who are demanding connectivity. Thanks to the Internet of Things, devices need to be connected, too. Satellite is an enabler of connectivity. Until recently it’s been thought of as a high-cost alternative solution that needs expertise to manage. Now, however, new developments in satellite technology mean it’s increasingly cost-effective, while the satellite industry is trying to simplify management of the satellite network.

Andrew: Used as part of a hybrid network with 5G, satellite provides ubiquitous connectivity and coverage. If terrestrial traffic congestion is offloaded onto satellite, it will bring more resilience to the 5G network. The fact is, that to get mission critical services into remote areas – places that terrestrial networks simply can’t reach – you need satellite technology. If satellite works in step with 5G tech, the handover between the two would be invisible; and unlike installing fibre, which entails digging up the road and the countryside, it’s a solution without appreciable cost and delay or environmental impact.

What benefits will satellite bring?

Andrew: It will bring fixed access speed, price points and higher quality to speed and latency. Satellite has traditionally had a latency issue, but a new generation of low-earth orbit satellites is a gamechanger in this regard. Also, there’s a growing demand among enterprises for private networks that they can use for their own purposes, without worrying about capacity issues or being beholden to someone else’s road map or deployment plan. Satellite will be an important part of enabling those private networks to become global enterprise networks.

Noemi: Satellite will disrupt existing value chains, increase competition and consumer choice and create new revenue models such as rural connectivity, in-flight communications and maritime connectivity. It means companies can monitor and manage their assets, such as warehouses and factories located in remote areas, or track goods in transit. It enables control of drones and sensors or any connected technology used in emergency situations.

What needs to change to make this happen?

Andrew: There are many different standards bodies covering different parts of communications infrastructure. There needs to be a convergence of satellite and terrestrial standards to make integration and interoperability easier. This harmonisation is important for an end-to-end network. For instance, operators need to be able to provision a satellite in the same way that they would provision terrestrial technology, because if two separate orchestration paths are used, there’s a possibility that the quality of service won’t match up.

Noemi: Satellite and cellular networks have different management control systems but converging standards will help overcome the technical issues that need to be solved to make it easier for them to work together. It’s not just enterprise that now understands the need for hybrid networks. The bodies driving and regulating the industry understand the need for them too.

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