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ESA Spurs 5G Digital Connectivity

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
December 7, 2021
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Credit: ESA

PARIS (ESA PR) — Efforts to enable seamless connectivity and reduce the digital divide by using telecommunications satellites to enhance terrestrial 5G services have leapt forward.

A new era of digitalisation and connectivity, between everything and everyone, has the potential to change how people interact, live and work – as well as enabling the internet of things and autonomous transport, which will improve road safety and reduce harmful emissions. Ensuring that everyone benefits from such connectivity is key.

To empower this digital transformation, ESA is backing a research project to build a software-based platform that will allow satellites to communicate with terrestrial mobile networks. It aims to extend 5G coverage for mobile phone network operators and companies that are building 5G towers into regions that are otherwise hard to connect.

Trials across Africa and Europe are planned to take place from 2023.

The project, called INSTANT5G, will define and develop a software-based platform that will allow the convergence of telecommunications satellites and 5G mobile networks. It will create, test and validate novel technologies to deliver a platform that facilitates the seamless service management of 5G satellite connections.

ESA and satellite communications company Avanti are leading the INSTANT5G project, with support from academics from the University of Surrey and experts from information technology consulting company CGI and mobile-satellite integration software company Lasting Software, as well as the UK Space Agency and the Romanian Space Agency.

Kyle Whitehill, Chief Executive Officer at Avanti, said: “We are delighted to be able to take a leading role in shaping the services of 5G over satellite on this ground-breaking research programme, and proud to be working alongside renowned global partners and academic experts. At Avanti, we believe everyone has the power to ‘be more’. By helping to break down the barriers that prevent mobile network operators and tower companies from accessing 5G coverage, we will unlock opportunities that will enable these businesses to thrive. It is a really exciting time for the satcom industry.”

Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “Satellites play a crucial role in enabling seamless and ubiquitous connectivity to reduce the digital divide, support the digital transformation and enable new carbon-neutral applications and services. We are proud to explore novel technologies for the design and development of integrated space and terrestrial networks.”

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