ExCel . . . Royal Victoria Dock . . . 1 Western Gateway . . . London E16 1XL . . . June 14th
Introduction & Mission:
5G is in process of transition and its realisation is both a journey and a destination. Whilst the 5G standardisation process is still ongoing and there are continuing uncertainties, the technology is progressing from having been an unclearly characterised and poorly focused vision of the future of wireless communications towards the delivery of a plan for actual infrastructure – premised on the current emergence of an active ecosystem with various 5G capabilities being established and with a range of roadmaps for trials, testbeds and deployments – that is sufficiently progressed to facilitate the first commercial deployments in, for example, the United Kingdom by 2020-ish, and to support (according to the Ericsson Mobility Report) an estimated half a billion 5G subscriptions by the end of 2022.
Satellite – an Integrated Technology & Service:
Whilst the future development of the global digital economy is indeed underpinned by the success of 5G deployment as a “destination”, we need to be very clear about the nature of 5G evolution as a “journey”, particularly with reference to the implications of that journey for the satellite industry.
Given that some analyses of the roll-out of future cellular networks have it that 5G networks will NOT be the norm anytime soon and that in reality 4G and LTE will continue along a gradual evolutionary path towards 5G, and that by 2025 the majority of the world's networks will have only just got to that high functioning LTE level, but will still not yet be 5G, there are some big questions for the satellite industry.
3GPP, 5GPP, the EU & ESA:
In the longer-term future of networking connectivity infrastructures – as clearly pointed to by the 3GPP, 5GPPP, the European Union, the European Space Agency, and other stakeholder actors – satellite are characterised as featuring not merely as an “interfacing” technology and service, with a secondary role in the “network”, but an “integrated” technology and service, fully part of an evolving and complex “network of networks”.
NetWorld 2020 European Technology Platform:
It has been recognised by the NetWorld 2020 European Technology Platform that, “Thanks to their inherent characteristics, the satellite component will contribute to augment the 5G service capability and address some of the major challenges in relation to the support of multimedia traffic growth, ubiquitous coverage, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and critical telecom missions whilst optimising the value for money to the end-users.” And that, “Satellites can proficiently be part of a hybrid network configuration, consisting in a mix of broadcast infrastructures and broadband infrastructures managed in such a way that it brings, seamlessly and immediately, converged services to all end-users…”.
One of the bigger considerations for the satellite industry during the period of the 4G/LTE evolutionary journey, over the short to medium term, is to understand how it can beneficially leverage the opportunities inherent in the transitionary period of continued expansion of such networks, before 5G “arrives”. Another consideration is that when 5G does eventually arrive, despite the characterisations of NetWorld 2020 (above) and of 3GPP and 5GPPP (below), will satellite be more than a convenient transport layer.
The 3GPP has specified a series of Use Cases where satellite will be essential and integral to 5G networks service offerings, namely:
And, the 5GPPP has stated in its Vision documentation that, “5G wireless will support a heterogeneous set of integrated air interfaces: from evolutions of current access schemes to brand new technologies. 5G networks will encompass cellular and satellite solutions. Seamless handover between heterogeneous wireless access technologies will be a native feature of 5G, as well as use of simultaneous radio access technologies to increase reliability and availability.”
At no earlier point in the history of mobile communications is the success of the next generation of networking technologies so dependent upon the take-up of network services by industry vertical markets. This is clearly reflected in the qualitative nature of 5G, a quantum leap beyond the person-to-person communications focus of earlier generations of mobile and towards a device-to-device ecosphere characterised as – according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – Enhanced Mobile Broadband; Ultra-reliable and Low-latency Communications; and, Massive Machine Type Communications.
Internet of Everything Everywhere (IoEE):
The nature of 5G is, therefore, about a world of devices, that is, with the Internet of Things (IoT), or rather – in time and with growth and evolution in the market – an Internet of Everything Everywhere (IoEE). Also a quantum leap – a leap, that is, beyond the realms of the maturing, and still expanding, M2M connectivity environment which has an already long-standing dependency on, and synergy with, satellite communications links – the world of IoT will be built on a connectivity foundation which will comprise a highly integrated functionality of, and between, terrestrial wireless platforms and satellite platforms.
Satellite connectivity has provided the communications foundation for the requirements of several verticals for some several decades, but now it is trending to centre stage for applications and users across the economic and social spectrum. It is no longer regarded by the wider sphere of communications solution provisioning as being stage left, no longer regarded as a niche market-only technology, no longer a solution of last or remote resort.
The 5G Networked World of IoT:
The 5G networked world of IoT, and related applications, will require that every device is connected wherever it happens to be and whilst Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and today’s terrestrial wireless network connections are able to support many IoT applications, these are not, and will never be, ubiquitous and seamless. Thus they are not readily able to service the many areas of low population density within which economic activities – such as in the agriculture, civil engineering, mining, oil & gas and utilities sectors as well as in transport (human and logistical) between urban hubs – and the provision of social programmes – such as education and health services – will benefit from IoT. IoT coverage, to be truly global in scope, will require integration of the terrestrial with the ubiquity and seamlessness that only satellite networks can provide.
GVF-EMP’s “The (Cellular Backhaul) World Is Not Enough” programme is the first of GVF-EMP’s portfolio of conferences and roundtables to be embedded within another event: the KNect365 5G World | IoT World | Smart Transportation show which runs 12-14 June 2018 at ExCeL in London’s Docklands district.