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Qualcomm Webinar - 5G from space: The final frontier for global connectivity

It's been a while since we created our first NTN tutorial. Since then NTN standardisation and development has gained significant momentum. There has also been no shortage of conferences and seminars dedicated to NTN, the most recent we have blogged about being ETSI's Conference on "Non-Terrestrial Networks, a Native Component of 6G".

In a Light Reading webinar last year, Qualcomm speakers discussed: 

  • How the 3GPP standards roadmap for 5G non-terrestrial networking (NTN), starting with Release 17 specifications, can make satellite connectivity easily accessible to people and things globally
  • How multiple companies are in the fray to establish 5G-capable satellite constellations and the capabilities they could bring along on the journey to ubiquitous connectivity
  • How Qualcomm’s longstanding experience in satellite communications, and 5G leadership, makes it the ideal technology partner for 5G IoT-NTN and NR-NTN
  • What is being envisioned for the future with 5G Advanced and beyond, with 6G

On the OnQ blog post, the authors explained:

As part of the Release 17 standardization effort, 3GPP pursued a range of solutions for 5G non-terrestrial networking (NTN) based on options for the type of non-terrestrial platform, and the use cases supported. The platforms supported are satellites at various orbits (GEO/GSO, MEO, and LEO), high-altitude platform station (HAPS), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Some of these platforms are intended to remain stationary relative to the earth, with non-steerable coverage, while other platforms could either move in relation to the earth or have steerable coverage. The Release 17 standard therefore includes support for both earth-fixed and earth-moving coverage beams.

Release 17 solved the key challenges to 5G connectivity with non-terrestrial platforms – long propagation delays, moving cells, and the large Doppler shifts associated with the platforms moving at high speed. Release 17 includes these solutions in two 5G technologies to serve different use cases – IoT-NTN and NR-NTN, both of which are candidate technologies for IMT-2020-Satellite classification.

5G NR-NTN is designed to complement terrestrial networks with non-terrestrial coverage in under-served areas, e.g., remote rural areas, coverage gaps, etc. While delivering less capacity and data rates than a densely deployed terrestrial network, 5G NTN makes possible a ubiquitous 5G user experience with support for mobility between terrestrial and non-terrestrial coverage. Rel-17 5G NR-NTN leverages satellites in transparent bent-pipe mode, and the 5G Standalone (5G SA) architecture, with a 5G gNB and 5GC core network, to serve throughputs ranging from 1 to 10 Mbps, or higher with more spectrum. Use cases for 5G NR-NTN include messaging, voice over NR (VoNR), and mobile broadband service to smartphones and embedded devices, fixed wireless access, automotive and mobile compute connectivity, and satellite backhaul for cell towers in remote locations.

5G IoT-NTN is designed to expand the addressable market for massive IoT with non-terrestrial coverage. It provides throughputs ranging from 1 to 100 kbps to Rel-17 NB-IoT and eMTC devices via satellites in transparent bent-pipe mode. For lower bandwidth services like NB-IoT, the bent-pipe architecture supports rapid deployment of new services over existing satellites since only the endpoints – the ground station and the user device – need to be upgraded to support the new service. The NB-IoT or eMTC carriers are generated by a base station connected to the ground station at one end and an EPC core network at the other end. Use cases for 5G IoT-NTN include personal safety and messaging, environmental sensors, point of sale devices, utility meters, and tracking logistics. IoT-NTN can provide universal coverage for IoT devices even in areas where terrestrial networks may not be deployed, e.g. in remote rural areas, for shipping containers at sea, etc.

3GPP designated two frequency bands in Release 17 for 5G NTN use, conditional on regional regulatory approvals. Both bands are in the 5G FR1 frequency range – n255 in the L-band (1626.5-1660.5 MHz UL / 1525-1559 MHz DL) with 34+34 MHz FDD bandwidth, and n256 in the S-band (1980-2010 MHz UL / 2170-2200 MHz DL) with 30+30 MHz FDD bandwidth.

Mobile IoT-NTN and NR-NTN devices must support GNSS positioning to be able to pre-compensate for timing due to propagation delays and pre-compensate for frequency shifts due to motion-related Doppler effects when attempting to communicate via satellite. Devices dedicated to stationary use cases may operate without GNSS capability provided the device’s location is accurately configured.

The video of the webinar is embedded below and the slides are available here:

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