What is the Role of 5G Technology in Space-based Communications?

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Apr 15, 2024

Space-based communication systems are transforming with the integration of 5G technology by providing the strategies of network operators. The integration of 5G technology in space-based communications has unlocked new possibilities of faster data rates, lower latency, increased capacity, and enhanced reliability. The primary objective of 5G technology in space-based communication systems is to provided diverse connectivity through combination of technologies from satellite-based platforms. The 5G networks has an integration of technologies such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN), network virtualization, automation, network slicing, and edge computing architectures. As the fifth generation of mobile networks, 5g technology provides an enhanced levels of network performance, reliability, energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and device connectivity for space-based communication system. Compared to the traditional space based communication systems which relied on radio frequency transmissions having limitations in bandwidth, latency, and reliability, the integrated 5G technology space based communication systems provides improved speed, latency and capacity for global telecommunications, earth observation, navigation, and scientific research.

Role of 5G Network in Satellite Communication

5G technology consists of multiple technologies such as 4G LTE, 5G NR, Wi-Fi, and space-based systems, the mobile generation will essentially function as a network of networks. Space-based platforms have been incorporated with 5G access technologies by the 3GPP which is actively working on defining requirements for satellite access, which will be integrated into the complete 5G specifications.  Modern satellite networks comprise various space-based platforms, including Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), Low Earth Orbit (LEO) systems, and High-Altitude Platforms (HAPs).

  • Ubiquitous Coverage: Satellites, individually or as part of a constellation, can provide coverage to virtually all inhabited areas on Earth. The extensive coverage ensures continuous and consistent connectivity, making satellites indispensable for 5G use cases like enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine-type communications (mMTC), and mission-critical machine-type communications (MC-MTC).
  • Mobility and Redundancy: Satellite networks provide connectivity to users on moving platforms such as airplanes, trains, and ships. They also serve as reliable backup systems during planned or unplanned terrestrial network outages, ensuring uninterrupted service availability.
  • Broadcast and Multicast: Satellite networks enable the transmission of multimedia content via broadcast and multicast streams, facilitating various 5G applications that require edge caching and local distribution. By broadcasting data or media to the network edge, satellites enhance network scalability and capacity, thereby accelerating the development of 5G services and applications.
  • Edge Server Connectivity: Edge computing, such as Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), is crucial for 5G networks to meet performance and low latency targets. Space-based platforms can provide high-capacity backhaul connectivity to edge servers, enabling content delivery, live broadcasts, multicast streams, and software updates for MEC implementations cost-effectively and at scale.
  • Fixed Backhaul to Remote Locations: Space-based systems will facilitate 5G broadband connectivity to underserved areas where deploying terrestrial infrastructure is impractical, such as remote villages, islands, or mountainous regions. They will also support broadband services on aircraft or ships, as well as in suburban and rural areas. Additionally, satellites can support disaster relief efforts and provide connectivity for one-off events globally.
  • Hybrid Networks: Space-based platforms can deliver high-speed connectivity directly to homes and offices, supporting streaming multicast content and IoT data aggregation. These hybrid networks combine satellite links with terrestrial networks to ensure effective connectivity and high capacity for users.
  • 5G on Moving Platforms: Satellites are essential for providing 5G broadband to users on moving vehicles like cars, ships, airplanes, and high-speed trains. This capability extends to both eMBB and massive machine-type communications (mMTC), enabling applications such as fleet management, navigation, and over-the-air software updates for connected vehicles worldwide.
  • IoT Service Continuity: In situations requiring dependable communication, space-based systems provide strong backup connectivity to terrestrial networks on a global scale.

Applications of 5G in Space-based Communications

The integration of 5G technology introduces diverse possibilities for space-based communications. Some key applications include:

  • Satellite Internet: 5G networks can provide high-speed internet access to remote and underserved areas worldwide through satellite constellations. This enables seamless connectivity for individuals, businesses, and communities, bridging the digital divide and facilitating economic growth.
  • Inter-Satellite Communication: 5G technology enhances communication between satellites within a constellation or network, enabling efficient data exchange, synchronization, and coordination. This is particularly advantageous for Earth observation, environmental monitoring, and disaster response initiatives.
  • Spacecraft Communications: 5G enables spacecraft to communicate with ground stations and other satellites with improved speed, reliability, and efficiency. This is crucial for mission-critical operations such as telemetry, tracking, and command (TT&C), as well as data transmission and reception.
  • Autonomous Spacecraft: 5G networks support autonomous navigation and communication capabilities for spacecraft, enabling real-time decision-making and collaboration in space missions. This paves the way for autonomous satellite swarms, robotic exploration missions, and space-based manufacturing and assembly.

Space Missions - A list of all Space Missions

esa

Name Date
Altius 01 May, 2025
AWS 01 Mar, 2024
Eutelsat Quantum 30 Jul, 2021
Sentinel 6 21 Nov, 2020
Cheops 18 Dec, 2019
EDRS 06 Aug, 2019
Small Geostationary Satellite 17 Nov, 2018
BepiColombo 20 Oct, 2018
Aeolus 22 Aug, 2018
Sentinel 3B 25 Apr, 2018

isro

Name Date
EOS-2 07 Aug, 2022
EOS-4 14 Feb, 2022
EOS-3 12 Aug, 2021
EOS-1 07 Nov, 2020
RISAT-2BR1 11 Dec, 2019
Cartosat-3 27 Nov, 2019
Chandrayaan II 06 Sep, 2019
RISAT-2B 22 May, 2019
Resourcesat-2A 07 Dec, 2016
AstroSat 28 Sep, 2015

nasa

Name Date
NEO Surveyor 01 Jun, 2028
Libera 01 Dec, 2027
Europa Clipper 10 Oct, 2024
SpaceX CRS-29 09 Nov, 2023
Psyche 13 Oct, 2023
DSOC 13 Oct, 2023
Psyche Asteroid 05 Oct, 2023
Expedition 70 27 Sep, 2023
SpaceX Crew-7 25 Aug, 2023
STARLING 18 Jul, 2023