Bet from Thales, Ericsson and Qualcomm

Thales took the bull by the horn to bring a constellation of 5G satellites, which would certainly provide worldwide and uninterrupted coverage of connection services in addition to the terrestrial network. A constellation of 600 to 800 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), which can be placed “In a horizon of four to five years”, Estimates Philip Care, executive vice-president of Thales in charge of strategy and research and technology. He estimated the project at between 2 and 8 billion euros. For Thales, the real trigger was the decision of 3GPP Collaboration between telecom standardization companies, which has finally approved the inclusion of satellite networks in the 5G standard (5G NTN). A small revolution in the telecom sector where Thales Alenia Space was involved, which worked within the framework of the think tank in proposing the standardization of 5G NTN networks.

In the process, the French technology group has partnered with Swedish equipment maker Ericsson and Qualcomm, world leaders in wireless technological innovation. Thales logically contributes his knowledge to the development of space payload, which must be consistent with 5G. Ericsson will provide 5G core network. Finally, Qualcomm is clearly the world leader in mobile terminal chipsets. Aiming that a 5G smartphone will be able to use 5G connections anywhere in the world and provide full global coverage for broadband data services, which are usually only covered by the phone system’s inherited satellite channels with limited connectivity.

To seduce an operator

“We are still in a research and development stage.” Satellite payload, explains Philip Carrier, who worked at Telecom (Alcatel) for a long time. A phase that should extend between 12 and 24 months that will make it possible to define payload. “Once our payload is stable and ready for launch, we want to go to the stage of launching 20 to 30 satellites into space to demonstrate the continuity of service in one location for a few minutes.”, He explains. In parallel, the three groups are studying the use of a dedicated spectrum, which belongs to the satellite operators and which is compatible with 5G frequencies (MSS frequencies, Mobile satellite service systeme).

“If the trial is final, the idea really needs to take the next step,” S.Or the installation of this famous 5G constellation, explained Philip Carrier. If you find an operator who is a receiver. “We are improving technology so that an investor can buy these 5G constellations from us, which can be managed. “, He said. The three groups are targeting satellite operators such as Ecostar, Inmarsat and Omnispace, which have MSS frequencies. There will be such operators “Part of the equation to launch on one side, then finance and constellation management”, Says Philip Carrier. But there is no question for Thales Off “Become a constellation operator. It’s very clear.”He said.

What a business suit

“Thanks to a few available megabits, our solution will be able to receive videos, connect to the Internet, send messages, communicate via WhatsApp …”, Philip Carrier believes. Thales has copied the constellation “business case” on Iridium, which “Very Profitable”, He observes. In the context of the expected security features for non-terrestrial 5G networks, government communications may be a major use, especially to strengthen the security and resilience of government networks (national security and public safety). “We can clearly see that the police and the Gendarmerie forces cannot accept that services are closed in certain places where they want to be able to communicate.”He observes.

“The 5G architecture also makes it possible to provide specific levels of protection that coexist with people like you and me who are going to use this value both terrestrial and satellite, but there is a specific level of protection for force policing or gendarmerie.” Philip explains the career.

There are some special industries that require elasticity, redundancy and safety. This is true of the transport sector, especially of autonomous or connected vehicles. These vehicles use terrestrial networks but if necessary they can use satellites for global coverage. “Getting this extra cover is really a plus”, Thales’s main guess in strategy. It is also in the case of energy or health. A sector where more and more connected objects will be important for monitoring human health. “It’s important to maintain this connection at all times”, He notes. Finally, satellite networks can serve as a back-up solution for terrestrial networks in the event of a breakdown or major disaster. “We saw this in the context of the Fukushima earthquake that destroyed the terrestrial networks. In the event of a breakdown and a major catastrophe, having a duplication of the terrestrial networks could be a plus.”Philip recalls career.