Ericsson, Qualcomm and Thales are tackling 5G in space

Based on their partnership, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Thales are launching a joint project where everyone can finally use a 5G smartphone everywhere, even in remote areas, thanks to Satellite Relay.

Franck Bouetard, CEO Ericsson France, BeLux, Algeria and Tunisia have announced that Swedish Ericsson, French Thales and American Qualcomm will collaborate on 5G satellites (data and telephony). The project will begin this year with ground testing in a simulated space environment in France, involving R&D resources from Ericsson France in particular. Franck Bouétard noted that “most of the European space ecosystem is based in France and will provide satellite 5G connectivity everywhere, including the terrestrial network and not globally.”

After conducting numerous studies and detailed studies, including simulations, various parties plan to enter a testing and validation phase, focusing on the use of smartphones for 5G non-terrestrial networks (5G NTN). Finally, it may be possible to have a 5G smartphone of the future that uses 5G connections anywhere in the world that will provide full global coverage for broadband data services, which are usually only covered by expensive mobile satellite systems.

In case of multiple benefits and uses

The benefits of 5G connectivity via Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites include coverage in extreme geographical areas or in remote areas where the sea, ocean and other places where land coverage is lacking. It can further enhance the roaming service capabilities of customers equipped with 5G smartphones and enable connectivity when using 5G in transport, energy and healthcare. “The end result could mean that wherever you are on Earth – in the middle of an ocean or in the most remote forest – high-resource, secure and affordable connections will be available,” said Eric Acuden, SVP and Ericsson’s CTO.

Eventually, in the event of a breakdown or major disaster, this network will form a back-up solution to face the terrestrial network. Through this international collaboration, the three companies, and in particular Thales, are targeting national government communications that could form a larger use case. Philip Carrier, executive vice-president, strategy, research and technology at Thales, said: “5G network […] Game changers are not just about business opportunities, but also about the skills needed to connect and protect billions of people and everything in existence. ”

A first step in testing and validation

Testing and validation by Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies, 3GPP, to support the first non-terrestrial networks, after the green light given by the Global Telecommunications Standards Body in March 2022. The purpose of the test will be to verify the various technology components required to create a 5G non-terrestrial network, including a 5G smartphone, satellite payload and ground-based 5G network components. The first experiments will be held in a simulated space environment in France. Ericsson therefore plans to test the 5G virtual RAN (vRAN) level, which has been changed to handle radio signals that are transmitted via fast-moving LEO satellites.

For its part, Thales plans to test the 5G radio satellite payload suitable for deployment on the LEO satellite, while Qualcomm plans to provide a test phone to verify that 5G NTN can be accessed from future 5G smartphones. Experts will use ground-based equipment to simulate 5G radio promotions and delays between an equipped satellite in orbit and the connection of a 5G smartphone with a 5G radio access network at various locations on the Earth’s surface. “While it is too early to say when a viable prototype 5G-equipped satellite can be launched into orbit for actual operational use, the high-tech ground test and validation work planned between Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm technology will take place.” Eric Acuden added.

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