The three companies have announced their intention to bring connections to areas that may not currently support 5G connectivity.
Qualcomm Technologies, Ericsson and French aerospace company Thales announced on July 11, 2022 their intention to collaborate with the goal of making 5G connections everywhere through the use of space. This goal is to be achieved by making 5G available worldwide using combined satellite and terrestrial connectivity. The announcement comes on the heels of the March 2022 go-ahead by the 3GPP Global Telecommunications Standards’ Body to support non-terrestrial networks for the first time†
“For 5G to deliver on the promise of ubiquitous connectivity, it is imperative that it can also provide network coverage in areas where terrestrial cellular networks do not exist, whether that be across oceans or in remote areas,” said John Smee, senior vice president of engineering at Qualcomm. “Our planned research with Ericsson and Thales will be the start of an important step in making this vital technology a reality. We are curious to see what this collaboration will bring.”
How the three companies are bringing 5G globally
Following 3GPP’s adoption of satellite-based 5G non-terrestrial networks (5G NTNs), the three companies aim to help with global network coverage, even in areas that currently lack terrestrial network capabilities. Using 5G connectivity a low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite can extend coverage to areas previously unable to receive service, including extreme terrain and across seas and oceans.
“This testing and validation collaboration between Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies will be an important milestone in the history of communications,” said Erik Ekudden, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Ericsson. “In fact, the ultimate outcome could mean that no matter where you are on Earth – in the middle of an ocean or the most remote forest – high-quality, secure and cost-effective connectivity will be available through collaborative 5G satellite and terrestrial connectivity.”
These improvements in 5G connectivity could potentially help a number of different usage scenarios, ranging from a mobile user’s roaming service to assisting critical infrastructure areas such as transportation, energy and healthcare. The three companies also hope that in an emergency, satellite connectivity can be used instead of or as a backup for terrestrial networks.
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Testing and validating 5G in space
The three companies’ plan to introduce smartphone-centric testing and validation of 5G NTN began with the announcement of 3GPP and aims to discover the components needed to enable 5G connectivity between smartphones, satellites and 5G terrestrial network segments. . The aim of the tests is to ensure that 5G NTN can be supported through the use of a network-enabled smartphone, with tests being conducted in an emulated space environment in France.
As part of the testing phase, Ericsson will deal with the 5G virtual RAN stack that has been modified to process radio waves via fast-moving satellites. Thales’ responsibility will be to verify that the payload can be distributed by the satellites themselves, while Qualcomm will provide the smartphones that will verify that 5G NTN is accessible to 5G devices.
“The rollout of 5G networks marks a step change for the telecom industry. It is a game changer, not only in terms of business opportunities, but also in the skills needed to connect and protect billions of people and things,” said Philippe Keryer, executive vice president of strategy, research and technology at Thales. “Thales is closely involved through the various activities of the Group. The research collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies will demonstrate our companies’ belief that 5G non-terrestrial networks will contribute to this revolution and take network resilience and security to the next level.”