5G and Satellite Communications

Even with the deployment of 5G networks, terrestrial coverage still remains to be a challenge and being able to connect the remaining unconnected populations is complex and potentially costly.

Providing additional coverage to those hard to reach areas, locations effected by disasters or areas effected by economic reasons can be facilitated through the use of satellite communications.

5G aims to provide seamless coverage, high data rates, low latency, low power and highly reliable communications, and different technology including satellite communication solutions will play a role in the future 5G ecosystem.

Satellite communications can be used in conjunction with 5G in a number of different combinations and deployment scenarios. This includes combined access networks, shared access and also satellite backhaul.

Combined Access Networks

Satellite access can be utilized to supplement terrestrial access network coverage. This would require the PLMN (Public Land Mobile Network) to utilize both terrestrial and satellite access networks. In order to facilitate this, separate N2 instances would be in place separating the access type nodes. Coverage of the satellite access network may span over the coverage of the terrestrial access network.

Shared Access

It is possible for the satellite network to be shared between multiple core networks within a 5G multi-operator core network. The shared satellite RAN will broadcast system information for those PLMNs whose core network are available. This could be for PLMNs with differing MCCs (Mobile Country Codes).

A number of country codes exist that are country agnostic, e.g. 90x. These have been assigned to satellite, aircraft, maritime and also Antarctica networks. Examples being Iridium – 90111 and Thuraya 90105.

Satellite Backhaul

Utilizing backhaul over satellite creates opportunities for service providers in relation to the delivery of services to remote sites. The use of satellites to support terrestrial backhaul began in the early 2000s and has continued to grow since. A satellite backhaul is utilized between the core and terrestrial access networks and is used to transport 5G N1/N2/N3 reference points. The satellite transparently carries the communication payload of the reference points.

This approach can enable high bit rate connectivity to be provided to remote locations across a large coverage area with the ability to multicast content, e.g. video, HD (High Definition) / UHD (Ultra High Definition) TV, and also non-video data. This could provide flexibility for local storage and consumption. The same capability could be used in an IoT (Internet of Things) scenario providing efficient backhaul of aggregated IoT traffic from multiple sites.

Even with the deployment of 5G networks, terrestrial coverage will remain to be a challenge and being able to connect the remaining unconnected populations is complex and potentially costly. Providing additional coverage to those hard to reach areas can be facilitated through the use of satellite communications. Satellite communications can be used in conjunction with 5G in a number of different combinations and deployment scenarios; including combined access networks, shared access and also satellite backhaul.