The project studied how to enable direct 5G satellite connectivity in smartphones. 3GPP specifications including 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) aspects were followed. Both geostationary (GEO) and non-geostationary (LEO) orbit systems were analysed. Frequency bands below 6 GHz were in focus. Main objectives were as follows:
Review the main satellite systems capable to provide voice and data to commercial 5G smartphones.
Review and identify the essential 5G smartphones’ characteristics for this activity.
Evaluate satellite link budgets for both downlink and uplink communications and select the most promising configurations.
Identify the challenges and missing technologies for the use of commercial 5G smartphones in the selected satellite systems. Derive the necessary space segment requirements for the selected scenarios. Minimise the impact to the bill of materials of smartphones.
Develop a technology roadmap aiming also at a subsequent over-the-air demonstration.
Identifying technology gaps and challenges for using 5G smartphones for direct satellite communications was in the focus of this project. Challenges for both space segment and smartphone were studied. For instance, available smartphone transmission powers are limiting the throughput of satellite connectivity to/from a normal smartphone that has size limitations e.g. for antenna implementation. In addition to technological limitations, frequency and safety regulations need to be considered. In business sense, changes to the smartphones need to be kept to a minimum to enable wide and economical use of the new technology in future.
The results of the project contribute in planning the steps needed for demonstrating and implementing direct 5G satellite connectivity to common smartphones. This feature is important as it enables extending cellular network coverage to areas for which building network infrastructure is not possible or economically viable. For instance, public safety and rescue operations benefit from this as well as remote businesses and people working or living in rural or hard to reach locations.
The project concentrated on finding both challenges and solutions for implementing direct 5G satellite connectivity feature in common smartphones. This requires new technologies and requirements both for space segment and smartphones. An important goal was to minimise additional costs especially for smartphones. Possibility for many use cases including voice over new radio (VoNR), pedestrian and public safety were analysed. Obtained technology roadmap and over-the-air testing approaches are also important results of the project.
The studied system consists of space segment and 5G smartphones. Main emphasis was on the obtainable communication link quality between the satellite systems and smartphones. Both geostationary and low earth orbit satellite systems were covered. Space segment and smartphone capabilities were assessed and possible technology improvement areas were identified.
Task 1: Satellite systems capable for providing connectivity to commercial 5G smartphones were surveyed. Smartphone applicability for satellite communications was also reviewed. Furthermore, link budget assessment was done and most promising satellite systems for 5G communications are selected.
Task 2: The limits of the selected satellite systems for direct 5G smartphone connectivity were investigated. Affordable solutions were also studied for enhancing satellite communication capabilities of 5G smartphones.
Task 3: Technology development roadmap was formed for direct 5G smartphone-satellite connectivity, both space segment and smartphone aspects are covered. Different over-the-air demonstration approaches were also identified.
The project analysed performance of selected satellite systems for direct smartphone connectivity. Enhancements were proposed both for space segment and smartphones for enabling direct satellite communications in future systems. Corresponding technology roadmap was formed, and different over-the-air demonstration approaches were identified.
The activity has been completed in February 2023.