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Satellites deliver 5G-quality connectivity

High-speed internet access that delivers video streaming, gaming, and virtual and augmented-reality content via satellites to people living and travelling in remote areas has come a step closer.

Researchers at the University of Surrey connected people via a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit operated by European satellite company Eutelsat Group, formerly known as OneWeb. They demonstrated seamless switching between ground-based mobile devices using 5G connectivity and the satellite system with 5G quality of service. The tests were performed through the ESA Sunrise Partnership Project supported by the UK Space Agency.

Engineers tested high-speed video conferencing as well as gaming and simple web browsing with almost no delays or glitches, thanks to the low Earth orbit network of almost 600 satellites and the University of Surrey’s 6G/5G Innovation Centre testbed.

Barry Evans, Professor of Satellite Communications at the 6G/5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, said: “It was thrilling to see no degradation when using the 5G connection made possible by the low Earth orbit constellation. This is a step closer to increasing internet access for more people around the world – a privilege that many of us take for granted. The work performed in the 5G pilot tests has demonstrated the feasibility of 5G backhaul over satellites in low Earth orbit.”

Rahim Tafazolli, Director of the Institute for Communication Systems at the University of Surrey, said: “It is a fantastic achievement from different perspectives. Our Surrey-developed standard compliant 5G core works perfectly with large constellation satellite and terrestrial networks. We are delighted to see the UK taking the lead in space/terrestrial network convergence and solving digital divide challenges as we work toward ubiquitous high-quality coverage of broadband services.”

Massimiliano Ladovaz, Eutelsat Group Chief Operations Officer, said: “We are delighted to have collaborated with the University of Surrey and ESA on these 5G pilot tests, which underscore the huge potential our low Earth orbit services for serving mobile users in rural and remote areas. As we continue to deliver for our existing customers and look forward to activating global coverage later this year, our driving focus will continue to revolve around expanding access to connectivity around the world.”

Javier Benedicto, Acting Director of Connectivity and Secure Communications at ESA, said: “We are proudly celebrating today our cooperation, under the Sunrise Partnership Project, with a large telecommunications operator such as Eutelsat Group and its partners including small and medium-sized enterprises, and academia.

“By working in a lean style using commercial off-the-shelf components and flexible project management to bring innovative technologies to market in response to commercial needs, ESA is helping to foster innovation in 5G connectivity in the highly competitive global market for telecommunications satellites.”

Harshbir Sangha, Missions and Capabilities Delivery Director at the UK Space Agency, said: “It is fantastic to see the low Earth orbit network successfully connect to a 5G mobile network. This achievement demonstrates the huge potential of its innovative technology to enhance connectivity and improve people’s lives, whether that means better broadband services in remote places, or the ability to respond more effectively to emergency situations.” ESA

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