The mobile and satellite sectors have never been in such close alignment, and they are about to get even closer.

Nick Wood

July 12, 2023

3 Min Read
Communication network above Earth for global business and finance digital exchange. Internet of things (IoT), blockchain,
Communication network above Earth for global business and finance digital exchange. Internet of things (IoT), blockchain, smart connected cities, futuristic technology concept. Satellite view.

The mobile and satellite sectors have never been in such close alignment, and they are about to get even closer.

The GSMA and the European Space Agency (ESA) on Wednesday announced the signing of a memorandum of intent (MoI) that covers collaboration on new satellite and terrestrial network technologies.

Non-terrestrial networking (NTN) has been incorporated into the 3GPP’s 5G standard since Release 17, and work is already well underway to turn it into a commercial reality. The partnership between the GSMA and the ESA represents a more coordinated effort in that direction. What’s more, when it comes to 6G, non-terrestrial networking is expected to be baked in from the start. Again, cooperation between these two sectors will be invaluable.

The GSMA and ESA’s goal then is to create an ecosystem that can fast-track the development of new complimentary solutions for businesses and consumers. They also aim to accelerate the integration of satellite communications with 5G and, when the time comes, 6G networks.

“By collaborating more closely with the European Space Agency, and its satellite network operator ecosystem, we hope to accelerate the immense potential satellite and terrestrial telecommunications networks can create for consumers and businesses when they are more closely connected. By working together, we can help the communications industry bring innovative solutions to market, which in turn will create tremendous benefits to society by connecting even more people, wherever they are in the world,” said GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair, in a statement.

What the MoI means in practical terms is that the GSMA and ESA’s respective innovation hubs plan to start working together, sharing knowledge, ideas, and the outcomes of trials with one another.

On the telecoms side, the GSMA has the Foundry, which fosters collaboration between telcos and various industries with the aim of developing initial ideas into globally-scalable, commercial solutions. Completed projects include using 5G to enable drones to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), a 5G broadcast solution, and using 5G for automated farming solutions, among others.

Similarly, on the satellite side of the equation, the ESA has its 5G/6G Hub. Opened in February 2022, it provides a space where new 5G and satcom technologies can be developed and integrated. Developers can also use it to test and verify their 5G converged network applications and services. The ESA announced in January that it is expanding the facility to accommodate new areas of research, which it aims to identify via a consultation with industry experts.

“Collaboration is key to telecommunications innovation and, from our 5G/6G Hub, we are fostering industry partnerships to advance the 5G digital transformation of society and industry,” said Antonio Franchi, head of the Space for 5G and 6G Strategic Programme at the ESA. “We look forward to working with GSMA to explore and realise the huge potential of next-generation satellite-enabled connectivity.”

The precise hugeness of this potential was quantified late last week by ABI Research.

It predicts that global 5G non-terrestrial networking (NTN) service revenue will achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 59% between 2024 and 2031, reaching $18 billion. By then, connections are expected to number 200 million.

 

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About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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