European Space Agency's Space for 5G/6G team co-winners of the Satellite Technology of the Year Award

Via Satellite Trophy for Satellite Technology of the Year

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space for 5G/6G programme line, part of the Directorate of Connectivity and Secure Communications, contributed to the winning team at the SATELLITE 2024 conference in Washington DC, United States. The team collected the Satellite Technology of the Year award, decided by the editorial board of publication, Via Satellite, and a public vote.

The award was dedicated to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project's (3GPP) work on delivering Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) specifications through Release 17, working with satellite industry, ESA Member States and connected stakeholders to ensure that satellite technologies will be fully integrated with the current and evolving 5G ecosystem.

With 5G deployment continuing across Europe and globally, ESA has been continuing to support the standardisation of satellite 5G components, enabling a more competitive and versatile satellite communication industry in the context of 5G. The benefit that this brings to European and Canadian society and economy is well documented, with satellite communications unlocking economic and social opportunities through providing ubiquitous, resilient and reliable connectivity, regardless of location or cellular capacity.

These aligned standards are key to driving the convergence of Terrestrial Networks and Non-Terrestrial Networks (TN/NTN) for the development of direct-to-device connectivity, and existing and future technologies that benefit societies around the world. Through Release 17, additional support has been developed to account for various network deployment scenarios that previously challenged hybrid network integration allowing for further agility in an always evolving market.

As part of the work ESA carries out, members of European industry can make use of the Agency's state-of-the-art 5G/6G Hub at the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) in Harwell, United Kingdom and the European Space Research and Technology Centre's (ESTEC) Telecom 5G/6G Lab in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, to test various hybrid network topologies, technologies resulting from Release 17 and anticipated future 5G/6G standard releases, and a variety of use cases benefitting from TN/NTN networks.  ESA offers the use of its 5G/6G Hubs and Labs to industry in an effort to innovate and realise future technologies keeping European industry competitive in the global market. 

ESA's Head of the 5G/6G NTN Programme Office, Antonio Franchi, collected the award alongside the Director General of Global Satellite Operators Association (GSOA), Isabelle Mauro.

Following the award, Antonio Franchi said: “We are glad to see our and our partners’ efforts being recognised at the highest levels in our sector. Combining satellite and terrestrial networks will enable a new level of service for both consumer and business users. Aligning our standards will further support the wider objective to help connectivity across Europe and the globe, we look forward to continuing this work with our partners.”

Whilst the award recognised the achievements of Release 17 of the 3GPP NTN standard, work is well underway for Release 18, due to be completed in the coming months. As 5G technology advances, and in the near future 6G, 3GGPP standards will continue to evolve with it, expanding satellite capacity and contribution to communications in Europe and globally. The 5G/6G team is working to steer the 3GPP standardisation process through its HELENA (Highly skillEd sateLlite community mEmbers to drive 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Network stAndardization) project, which advocates for the satellite communications sector to expand the presence of satellite in Release 18, 19 and beyond. HELENA chairs the Standardisation Special Interest Group which groups more than 60 companies to discuss and coordinate relevant contributions towards 3GPP. The award prizes collective and individual contributions of all participating companies and personnel.

ESA’s Space for 5G/6G programme line forms part of the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) 4.0 programme and demonstrates the essential nature of hybrid TN/NTN for 5G and 6G, working with industrial and academic partners, and ESA Member States to set the standardisation actions, development and deployment roadmaps to enable natively integrated and interoperable TN/NTN in 5G/6G.

Published 09 April 2024
Last updated at 09 April 2024 - 09:08