Why standardization will speed up the event of non-terrestrial networks (NTNs) (Reader Discussion board)
The battle for market share for satellite tv for pc connectivity, delivered by non-terrestrial networks (NTNs), is properly underway, with satellite tv for pc corporations, telcos and handset distributors all vying for a place on this quickly rising market. We’ve already seen pioneering strikes from various high-profile names, with early partnerships starting to kind that can in the end allow seamless 5G NTN connectivity to turn into a actuality.
This consists of T-Cell and SpaceX asserting their intention to hitch forces to serve T-Cell clients in rural or distant areas. Apple’s iPhone 14 additionally made waves as the primary main smartphone to supply messaging by way of satellite tv for pc connectivity for emergency conditions. And curiosity isn’t waning as in March Amazon shared plans to launch its first web satellites to compete with SpaceX, and OneWeb accomplished a constellation that it says will provide world protection as early as later this 12 months.
Satellite tv for pc standardization
The latest flurry of satellite-focused exercise could be attributed partly to the 3GPP’s standardization on 5G NTNs, which has been ongoing for round 4 years. 3GPP Launch 17 was permitted in 2022 and has already enabled main chipset suppliers reminiscent of MediaTek and Qualcomm to ship options overlaying the mixing of TNs and NTNs to be used in shopper handsets. Whereas that is welcome, it does imply the developments which have been made with earlier designs have come earlier than the business has been totally standardized, which limits their potential.
Till 3GPP Launch 17, NTNs have been developed based mostly on siloed approaches and proprietary expertise. Which means that handset suppliers and chipset producers trying to provide satellite tv for pc connectivity have solely partnered with a single NTN supplier. For instance, Apple has partnered with Globalstar, and Qualcomm with Iridium. The result’s that the satellite tv for pc capabilities they provide are restricted by the person networks and the protection and efficiency they provide.
Nonetheless, T-Cell and SpaceX’s pledge to offer close to full protection within the U.S. — utilizing T-Cell’s spectrum appropriate with present handsets — signifies an intent to open up satellite tv for pc connectivity to a wider viewers by creating networks that converge with terrestrial networks (TNs) and are built-on business requirements.
The 3GPP’s requirements will ultimately enable for 5G NTN-enabled chipsets and handsets to be launched that can be appropriate with a number of satellite tv for pc suppliers. It will allow them to offer wider protection, however sure community challenges nonetheless have to be overcome to realize this.
So, what does 3GPP standardization imply for the way in which that networks are being constructed?
Satellite tv for pc payloads function in very harsh, constrained environments. Till not too long ago, every constellation has tried to beat these challenges with distinctive architectures and operational necessities, taking time and appreciable financing. To battle these challenges, the 3GPP has outlined two architectures for a way 5G NTNs connect with terrestrial infrastructure: ‘clear’ and ‘regenerative.’
The clear structure consists of connectivity by way of a satellite tv for pc performing as a repeater with the gNB on the bottom. This nonetheless meets link-budget necessities, however since every satellite tv for pc is simply repeating the sign, there may be extra latency and better feeder-link calls for to function a number of beams.
The regenerative mannequin, however, sees the gNB put in on the satellite tv for pc. It’s typically most popular because it supplies better efficiency enhancements than the clear mannequin by avoiding among the latter’s pitfalls, while enhancing hyperlink funds administration and avoiding the necessity for every satellite tv for pc to have good visibility of a floor station.
This mannequin takes inspiration from O-RAN structure, and splits RAN processing throughout the radio unit, distributed unit and centralised unit. RAN elements can due to this fact be extra simply positioned throughout the satellite tv for pc infrastructure and a number of satellites are ready to hook up with a single gateway, speaking by way of satellite tv for pc hyperlinks permitting for a denser deployment of satellites in area. This results in better protection and higher efficiency, reminiscent of diminished latency and elevated bandwidth effectivity.
Nonetheless, whereas designing NTNs based mostly on the regenerative mannequin will improve their efficiency, it gained’t take away their complexity. These networks might want to comprise huge numbers of satellites and beams, which should be correctly coordinated to interoperate with TNs and supply common protection. In addition to working collectively on system engineering and modeling to deal with these points, terrestrial and non-terrestrial gamers might want to coordinate to beat the issue of spectrum constraint.
Fortuitously, the FCC not too long ago got here out in assist of 5G satellite tv for pc connectivity by proposing a framework that can enable satellites to re-use MNO spectrum in areas not lined by TNs. In essence, it will see satellite-enabled handsets being served by satellite tv for pc alerts when terrestrial sign isn’t obtainable. This so-called ‘supplemental protection from area’ strategy will allow satellite tv for pc operators to make use of spectrum that’s presently licensed to terrestrial providers in a transfer that can mitigate the challenges of restricted spectrum availability.
Simply as with the efficiency transitions from 2G to 5G, we’ll quickly come to depend on the ever-present protection offered by 5G NTNs to fill protection gaps worldwide. Collectively, standardization and the allocation of extra spectrum for satellite tv for pc use instances are the important thing to enabling this, as these two elements are important to realize the efficiency and economies of scale that can make widespread NTN entry an actual risk sooner or later.
Because the business standardizes and NTNs turn into extra economically viable, satellite tv for pc operators, telcos, tools and handset distributors can put money into overcoming the remaining community challenges related to their improvement – reminiscent of optimize efficiency – protected within the data that they’re working in the direction of a shared purpose, with the potential for integration and deeper partnerships. Subsequently, an outlined 3GPP roadmap that can improve the obtainable efficiency of NTNs and facilitate this sector’s momentum can’t come quickly sufficient.