The Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) Forum

What is the NTN Forum?

There is a need to create an inclusive platform that encourages collaboration, knowledge sharing, and collective efforts among a variety of industrial and academic stakeholders to promote the integration of Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTNs) in the evolving 5G Advanced and 6G networks.

To achieve this, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space for 5G/6G & Sustainable Connectivity programme, within the Directorate of Connectivity and Secure Communications’ Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES), has introduced the NTN Forum. The objectives of this Strategic Programme Line are to:

  • Achieve full integration of satellite with terrestrial 5G/6G networks.
  • Engage vertical market stakeholders in 5G/6G integrated (satellite and terrestrial) pilots.
  • Drive standardisation activities to ensure full inclusion of satellite in 5G/6G standards.

ESA has played a crucial role in supporting 5G standardisation activities, providing input, and advocating for positions that benefit the satellite communication sector within the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standardisation process. ESA's active involvement has been instrumental in driving the development of standards that align with the specific needs and advancements of NTN technologies. With the successful inclusion of NTNs in the 3GPP standardisation, this is only the beginning of the journey towards 6G.

NTNs design and deployment are perceived as the priority area for international and national telecommunications initiatives across the world.

The Space for 5G/6G & Sustainable Connectivity programme is founded on the principle of partnering and engaging with all players across satellite, terrestrial and vertical segments domains; commercial entities, operators, service providers and industry providing technological solutions.

The objectives of the establishment of NTN Forum

The NTN Forum aims to harness the expertise and resources of a diverse group of stakeholders, including space companies, telecommunications providers, technology developers, and other relevant industry players. By fostering collaboration and collective action, the Forum aims to drive the integration of NTN in 5G and 6G networks, opening up new possibilities and generating tangible industrial opportunities for all participants.

The NTN Forum is a not-for-profit organisation committed to providing a collaborative framework for relevant stakeholders to implement NTN solutions for 5G and beyond in a harmonious, reasonable, non-discriminatory, and market-driven manner. The Forum aims to foster cooperation among diverse industry players and drive the widespread adoption of NTN-based technologies to meet the evolving needs of various sectors.

Bringing together stakeholders

One of the key objectives of the NTN Forum is to bring together all interested parties, including satellite, mobile, and terrestrial network operators, content owners, broadcasters, service providers, vertical stakeholders, network infrastructure vendors (both in space and terrestrial domains), consumer equipment manufacturers, IT providers, and vertical market representatives. By creating a collaborative platform, the Forum facilitates a holistic approach to developing NTN solutions for 5G/6G and enables diverse perspectives to be considered, ensuring comprehensive and well-rounded outcomes.

Identifying suitable use cases

The NTN Forum actively identifies and addresses suitable use cases for 5G/6G-based NTN solutions. Through collaborative discussions and research, the Forum explores the different collaborative exploitation models between satellite and terrestrial infrastructure owners, service and technology providers and integrators. In addition, the Forum explores potential synergies between satellite services and vertical market sectors such as transport (including terrestrial, aeronautical, and maritime), public safety, utilities (such as oil and gas, water, and energy supply), agriculture, media, and other relevant vertical industry sectors. By anticipating these use cases, the Forum aims to faster introduction of NTN solutions within these sectors while optimising the deployment scenarios.

Overcoming barriers and challenges

To promote widespread availability and adoption of satellite networks and related user equipment based on 5G/6G technology, the NTN Forum actively addresses commercial, technical, and regulatory barriers. These barriers include both the satellite network itself, including the space segment, and the integration of 5G/6G satellite and cellular network-enabled equipment in consumer devices such as smartphones, cars, and other moving platforms like airplanes, drones, trains, vehicles, and vessels. By identifying and overcoming these barriers, the Forum seeks to accelerate the integration of satellite solutions into the market.

Developing implementation frameworks

The NTN Forum is dedicated to developing implementation frameworks for reference 5G/6G network Terrestrial Network (TN) and NTN infrastructure(s). These frameworks aim to meet the specific business and technical interfaces between different actors in the service chain delivery, enabling the introduction of services tailored to the vertical segment needs.

By collaborating with relevant technical standardisation organisations and industry associations, the NTN Forum contributes to the development of manufacturer-neutral implementation guidelines and best practices that support an open and competitive market for equipment. Through these efforts, the Forum encourages the emergence of new services and motivates the engagement of the different actors while create investment opportunities.

Advocacy, cooperation and promotion

The NTN Forum actively engages with regulators, policymakers, and relevant technical standardisation organisations such as 3GPP and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). The Forum advocates for necessary regulations that foster the growth and deployment of 5G/6G NTN. Moreover, the NTN Forum cooperates with these organisations and industry to contribute to the development of standards and specifications that drive the interoperability and seamless integration of satellite technologies within the broader 5G ecosystem. Through collaborative efforts, the NTN Forum promotes the benefits of NTN solutions to the telecommunications and vertical industries, emphasising their significant contributions to the advancement of 5G/6G.

Support for interoperability and certification

The Forum recognises the importance of testing and verification of NTNs functionality. To accelerate this process, the Forum proposes interoperability tests and issues requests for certification as appropriate. In doing so, the NTN Forum promotes innovation and ensures the reliability of NTN-enabled technologies, fostering confidence among stakeholders in the effective implementation of NTN solutions for space exploration, communication, and other related applications.

Registration as a participant

To register to participate in the NTN Forum, the participant must complete the online registration form and submit it for validation. Upon registering, participants may identify with a certain stakeholder group within the NTN ecosystem and should express their interest in joining specific working groups.

Specific working groups will be jointly agreed with the participants.

By registering to participate in the NTN Forum, participants confirm that they are aligned with the purpose and the objectives of the NTN Forum as defined above. Participants further confirm their intent to participate (to the best of their ability) and to contribute to events and activities planned in the framework of the NTN Forum.

Upon validation, the participant will receive a confirmation via email.

The participant is solely responsible for protecting the confidentiality of any credentials received from ESA, and solely liable for any harm resulting from disclosing them or allowing their disclosure. The participant must notify ESA immediately in the event of suspected or actual unauthorised use of the participant’s means of communication or credentials.

Participation in the NTN Forum is free of charge and entails no exchange of funds for any purpose.

All costs for participation are at the own cost of each participant and will not be reimbursed by ESA.

ESA shall be entitled to refuse registration of participants for any reason.

Please note that the kick-off event is scheduled for 5 July 2024 at 15:00 CET via an online Teams meeting.

Register here to join as a participant to the NTN Forum


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