ESA agreement with GSMA accelerates satcom network integration for mobile industry

The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a landmark agreement with GSMA, heralding a major step forward in links between the mobile and satellite industries, and the accelerated integration of satellite-terrestrial connectivity. GSMA works with mobile operators to deliver innovative solutions, and this new collaboration brings exciting new possibilities for the telecommunications industry to leverage ESA’s satellite network operations for the advancement of 5G and future 6G systems.

ESA’s 5G/6G Hub, based at the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) at Harwell in the UK, has successfully integrated satellite connectivity with 5G, and has forged several collaborations with start-ups, SMEs and industry, helping them to develop products and services using state-of-the-art 5G integrated terrestrial-satellite equipment. This spirit of collaboration is a vision shared with GSMA, whose Foundry innovation accelerator brings together mobile operators and wider technology industries, helping them to develop real-world solutions to industry challenges, nurture innovative ideas and scale solutions at a regional and global level. 

The new alliance between ESA and GSMA aims to further strengthen the competitiveness of both mobile and satellite network industries, leveraging the joint efforts and ecosystems of ESA and GSMA to fast-track the development of hybrid satellite-terrestrial solutions. As part of the partnership, GSMA Intelligence (GSMAi) will also contribute industry insights and research. GSMAi’s recent findings showed that the increased integration of satellite technologies by the communications industry could lead to potential revenue gains of $35bn by 2035.

The Memorandum of Intent (MoI) was signed at ECSAT on 11 July 2023 by Antonio Franchi, Head of Space for 5G and 6G Strategic Programme Line at ESA, and Barbara Pareglio, Executive Director for Smart Mobility at GSMA, in the presence of ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher (pictured). A parallel signing ceremony was held at GSMA’s London headquarters on 12 July with GSMA Chief Technology Officer Alex Sinclair and Antonio. Signalling a new era of knowledge and idea exchange, the signings also come in the wake of a £20 million investment by the UK Government to develop future telecoms technologies and aerial connectivity projects.

Following the signing of the MoI, Antonio Franchi said, “Collaboration is key to telecommunications innovation and, from our 5G/6G Hub, we are fostering industry partnerships to advance the 5G digital transformation of society and industry. We look forward to working with GSMA to explore and realise the huge potential of next-generation satellite-enabled connectivity.”

Alex Sinclair added, “By collaborating more closely with the European Space Agency, and its satellite network operator ecosystem, we hope to accelerate the immense potential satellite and terrestrial telecommunications networks can create for consumers and businesses when they are more closely connected. By working together, we can help the communications industry bring innovative solutions to market, which in turn will create tremendous benefits to society by connecting even more people, wherever they are in the world.”

Published 18 July 2023
Last updated at 20 July 2023 - 08:30