Engineers have connected Japan and Europe via space-enabled, next-generation 5G telecommunication links for the first time, the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a release.
The agency noted that the possibility of switching smoothly between terrestrial 5G connections and satellites is “essential” to ensure that everything and everyone stays connected wherever they go. Work on “non-terrestrial network” integration with 5G in 3GPP’s standardization process began in Release 15.
ESA noted that engineers in Japan collaborated with their counterparts in Europe to test several business scenarios that will demand such seamless transitions.
Engineers tested whether it was possible to send high-definition broadcast quality 4K video via space to simulate the experience of passengers on board an aircraft. The long distance between Japan and Europe introduces a time lag that makes connection more challenging than it would be over shorter distances. They found that even under the influence of such delays, it was possible to send the video from Japan to a data center in Europe seamlessly using satellite.
The engineers also tested whether they could send internet-of-things data – such as that generated by sensors operating on an offshore oil platform, for example – via satellite from Japan to Europe. ESA said that the second test was successful.
Finally, they measured the network quality of each segment of each of the transmissions and validated the successful integration between the terrestrial 5G networks and the satellite. In addition, they demonstrated the system’s capability to support the service requirements, proving that intercontinental 5G satellite and terrestrial networks represent a significant option for campus networks and for highly distributed network deployments.
ESA also said that these experiments took place in January and February 2022.
The tests form part of an ongoing agreement between ESA and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan to work together on 5G satellite communications.
Hiroaki Harai, director general of the Network Research Institute at NICT, said: “By utilizing the result of this 5G satellite experiment, we believe that we will lead to the development of communications and networking technology to connect satellites, high-altitude platform systems, and drones. The three-dimensional network that connects multiple layers from the terrestrial to the ocean, air, and space will enable communication to all areas and will realize diverse communications.”
Elodie Viau, director of telecommunications and integrated applications at ESA, said: “I am proud to be part of the first collaborative experimentation with Japanese stakeholders in which a terrestrial 5G signal was complemented by a satellite connection over such a long distance – and to work in international collaboration with industry and the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology. Next-generation communications technologies are crucial to keeping everyone and everything connected at all times.”
ESA is supporting the experiments through its Space for 5G/6G strategic program line, which is part of the agency’s program of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES), and the SATis5 project.