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5G NR-NTN Demos make a Debut at MWC 2023

We have been talking about 5G NR Non-Terrestrial Networks (NR-NTN) for years but only now we are starting to see some demos, prototypes and real-world devices. At MWC 2023, satellite connectivity stole the show to some extent. Many NTN sceptics were able to see real-world demos for the first time.

MediaTek demoed their NTN solution that brings two-way satellite communications to smartphones. Their press release said:

The first smartphones with MediaTek’s satellite connectivity are also launching, with more devices to be unveiled in the coming months. Additionally, MediaTek will also be sharing a sneak peek of its next-generation 5G New Radio NTN (NR-NTN) technology for the next wave of satellite-enabled devices.

Satellite networks aim to fill gaps in mobile coverage, offering a reliable way for devices to communicate in remote locations. With satellite-enabled smartphones, consumers can stay in touch when they are hiking, driving in secluded areas, on a boat, or in other situations where there has traditionally been no connectivity; this will not only provide users with peace of mind, but also enable them to request assistance in emergency situations. Today the biggest market opportunity for 3GPP NTN technology is smartphones, although there is a growing demand for satellite connectivity in IoT applications such as agriculture, forestry, and logistics. The automotive industry will also be a major market for satellite communications technology in the coming years.

Over the coming years, MediaTek’s satellite communications portfolio will target both IoT-NTN and NR-NTN technology based on the 3GPP 5G specification for Release 17 (R17). IoT-NTN is ideal for messaging since it is designed for low data rate connections, while NR-NTN allows for higher data rates that can support video calls and other applications. Since satellite networks can currently only support IoT-NTN on a mass scale, the initial wave of satellite-enabled smartphones and other devices powered by MediaTek will be designed for two-way satellite messaging services.

MediaTek is teaming up with Bullitt to bring the world’s first commercially available devices with 3GPP NTN technology, utilizing the MT6825 chipset to connect to the Bullitt Satellite Connect platform. This includes the motorola defy 2 and CAT S75 smartphones; and the motorola defy satellite link, a compact and lightweight Bluetooth accessory that allows Android and iOS devices to connect to the Bullitt Satellite Connect platform. Bullitt Satellite Connect service will provide users with access to two-way satellite messaging, location sharing, and emergency SOS in more places around the world.

The forthcoming NR-NTN chipset from MediaTek will allow devices to support services with higher data rates like navigation and real-time communication. As satellite networks build capacity for NR-NTN over the coming years, this opens up exciting new consumer, enterprise, and industrial use cases as smartphones, IoT devices, and vehicles can take advantage of reliable connectivity everywhere.

Ian Fogg has written a post on this here. A live demo courtesy of Prakash Sangam below:

In time for MWC, Samsung announced that it has secured standardized 5G non-terrestrial networks (NTN) modem technology for direct communication between smartphones and satellites, especially in remote areas. The press release noted:

Samsung plans to integrate this technology into the company’s Exynos modem solutions, accelerating the commercialization of 5G satellite communications and paving the way for the 6G-driven Internet of Everything (IoE) era.

For highly reliable NTN communication with low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, Samsung has developed and simulated 5G NTN standard-based satellite technology using its Exynos Modem 5300 reference platform to accurately predict satellite locations and minimize frequency offsets caused by the Doppler shift. Based on this technology, Samsung’s future Exynos modems will support two-way text messaging as well as high-definition image and video sharing.

Additionally, Samsung plans to secure a standardized NB-IoT NTN technology for use in its next-generation modem platforms. With integrated satellite connectivity, Samsung’s NB-IoT solutions will eliminate the need for a separate high-power wireless antenna chip inside smartphones, providing mobile device makers with much greater design flexibility.

AST SpaceMobile was showing BlueWalker 3 satellite connectivity on Nokia and Vodafone booths.

Back in January, Qualcomm introduced Snapdragon Satellite which it billed as "The World's First Satellite-Based Solution Capable of Supporting Two-Way Messaging for Premium Smartphones and Beyond". Honor, Motorola, Nothing, OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi are working with Qualcomm to develop smartphones with satellite communication capabilities. 

Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm partnered for a Proof of Concept to demonstrate 5G NTN end-to-end connectivity as can be seen in the Tweet above.

A recently released whitepaper by Analysys Mason looking at satellite D2D (direct-to-device) market predicts that the satellite D2D service strategy will be worth a cumulative USD93.1 billion in the next 10 years. We will have to wait and see how this pans out. 

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  1. You talk about 5G NTN without mentioning Thales Alenia Space present on the Ericsson booth.

    1. I did, "Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm partnered for a Proof of Concept to demonstrate 5G NTN end-to-end connectivity as can be seen in the Tweet above."


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