5G is the fifth generation of cellular network technology and the next big leap forward for terrestrial and satellite telecommunications. 5G will drive a convergence of fixed and mobile services, introduce a new set of technologies and standards, and create a network of networks to facilitate communications between anyone and anything.
This is a major opportunity for the space sector to deliver a significant part of the future generation of communications, networks, and services. In order to truly make 5G the next global connectivity infrastructure, hybrid satellite-terrestrial networks are paramount, as they provide key attributes such as:
- Ubiquitous coverage: reaching areas where terrestrial 5G cell towers are scarce or non-existent, for 100% coverage.
- Seamless connectivity: allowing seamless transfer from terrestrial networks to satellite networks, with no service interruption for the user
- Network resilience: assured connectivity for critical applications and instances where terrestrial networks are compromised.
As part of ESA’s commitment to supporting innovation and competitiveness in the European industry, “Space for 5G and 6G” has become a strategic program for ESA. A key element of the program is the ESA 5G/6G Hub on the ECSAT site [link to 5G Hub page], providing a platform to showcase the latest in 5G/6G innovation in an interactive experience.
History and Future Plans
ESA and the European space industry have joined forces to develop and demonstrate the added value that satellite brings to 5G. On 21 June 2017, at the Paris Air and Space show, ESA and 16 satellite industry leaders signed a Joint Statement (JS) on their collaboration in the realm of 'Satellite for 5G'. In 2019, following the successful endorsement of the 5G Programme, ESA has established the “Space for 5G and 6G” Strategic Programme to better serve the space sector in the 5G/6G journey and opportunity it creates. The strong endorsement in 5G from ESA member states enables ESA to continue its dedicated focus on 5G and beyond. ESA has been working together with satellite operators, service providers and manufacturers across Europe on:
1. 5G service trials, with a focus on selected vertical market sectors.
2. Cross-cutting activities in the areas of product and service development, applications development, standardization, resource management, interoperability demonstrations and supporting technologies.
3. Outreach activities.
Crucially, these efforts align with and build upon the existing initiatives of the European Commission on 5G and are intended to complement other European, national, and international initiatives.
Since the Joint Statement was defined ESA has established a framework to support future industrial activities and is working with the European Commission to coordinate and strengthen institutional support in Europe for satellite-terrestrial 5G convergence.
5G brings together the traditional space sector, the telecommunication sector and many vertical market stakeholders who will benefit from a connected future, including, but not limited to, transport and logistics, medicine, agriculture, education, manufacturing, public safety and energy. ESA has a pivotal role in supporting collaborations across different verticals and can offer financial and technical support to the development of new technologies and services.
Parties who are interested in finding out more can contact us at 5G@esa.int
“Space for 5G & 6G” is about promoting, developing and validating converged hybrid networks to support the digitalization of industry and society, in a world where satellite is fully integrated in the connectivity networks. The main objectives of the Strategic Programme Line (SPL), as it relates to 5G are:
Achieve full integration of satellite with terrestrial 5G networks.
o Demonstrate added value of space in 5G-based services and applications.
o Develop satellite communication products to be integrated in 5G networks.
o Develop testbeds to be used in trials and pilots, particularly with vertical industry stakeholders.
o Support the downstream sector in developing applications based on space and 5G.
o Demonstrate multi-technology, multi-provider and multi-region (global) integration.
Engage verticals in 5G integrated (satellite and terrestrial) pilots.
o Engage with (business) user communities to develop specific initiatives showcasing benefits of space and 5G.
o Engage terrestrial actors in pilots, both Mobile Network Operators and Telecom Equipment Vendors.
Drive standardization activities to ensure full inclusion of satellite in 5G standards.
To successfully meet the objectives of the SPL, an approach covering multiple activities across various domains is necessary. Therefore, in order to achieve the integration of satellite in 5G, seven
Activity Areas have been identified:
1 – Promote 5G: Produce and execute a promotion and communication campaign in order to increase the awareness of satellite in 5G.
2 – Global 5G Testbeds: Use existing ESA 5G testbeds as a platform to promote inter-working with other regional 5G testbeds, as well as a platform for performance validations and pilots of various 5G vertical markets. Other testbeds will be developed and integrated as required.
3 – 5G Technology Developments: Address technology limitations for a widespread adoption of satcom in 5G. This activity covers all 5G-related product developments, including space segment, ground segment and system activities, across their product lifecycle (definition, technology, product and demonstrations phase).
4 – 5G Technology and Service Systems: For technology, the focus is on specific 5G missions/projects covering developments, testing and validations, mainly in infrastructure. For service, the focus is on end-to-end product and service developments.
5 – 5G Business Applications: Development of applications that take advantage of the new capabilities offered by 5G to address new markets. Pilot demonstrations to show-case integrated space and terrestrial 5G technologies operating in the application context of the vertical business segments.
6 – 5G Regional Partnerships: Partner with local/regional user communities and dedicated 5G initiatives to show-case 5G benefits in services ready for operational deployments in cities or rural areas.
7 – Institutional, Regulation, Standardisation: Promote and support 5G in various regulatory bodies. Support standardisation to ensure satellite is part of the 5G standard.
How to Engage
ESA’s Space for 5G and 6G Strategic Programme Line (5G/6G SPL) has been set up to support the space sector to deliver cost effective technology solutions for 5G and 6G. The 5G/6G SPL provides funding for activities and projects aimed at a common strategic goal to support the digitalisation of business and society; this is conducted in coordination with related 5G/6G initiatives at European and national level in various Member States.
ESA 5G/6G Hub
As part of the 5G/6G SPL, ESA has also developed the 5G/6G Hub, a research, innovation and collaboration centre, part of ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) located at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, UK.
The main purpose of the 5G/6G Hub is to host companies from the 5G/6G ecosystem (satellite and terrestrial network operators, equipment manufacturers and application developers) to partner with ESA to test their technology and discover how satellite and terrestrial communication networks can converge to create and support innovative applications and services.
ESA’s funding opportunities and calls
There are many funding opportunities in support of the ARTES Telecommunications Space for 5G and 6G Strategic Programme Line:
5G/6G SPL Essential Technologies Calls address development of key advanced technology building blocks of future integrated terrestrial and satellite 5G networks. This is regulated by Work Plans which are issued annually. The 2021 Work Plan can be found here.
5G/6G Product and Technology: this is a mix of ESA initiated calls for proposals and industry-initiated proposals, to address the development of new satellite products and services.
5G/6G Application and Services: this is a mix of ESA initiated calls for proposals and industry initiated unsolicited proposals, issued in coordination with ESA’s Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS) programme. Under this funding line, the 5G/6G SPL is currently funding several feasibility studies and projects that demonstrate the added value of 5G in providing ubiquitous coverage as enabler to new applications and business models in transport, smart cities, safety and security domains.
5G/6G thematic calls for proposals: this covers thematic call for proposals focusing on specific issues or market opportunities. Some examples are:
- “Space and 5G Convergence: Transport & Logistics” looking at supporting the emergence of services relying on converged 5G terrestrial and satellite communication networks improving efficiency and environmental sustainability in the logistics sector,
- the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) “Space for smart and unmanned shipping”, aiming to support the development of space based downstream services and solutions relying on advanced technologies such as 5G and PNT (Positioning, Navigation and Timing) in the smart and uncrewed shipping domain.
For more information on how to apply, visit the How to apply page.
News and Events
In the upcoming Announcement of Opportunity economic operators are invited to propose a Demonstration Project addressing the theme of:
Space for Smart and Uncrewed Shipping: downstream services enabled by 5G and advanced positioning,…
A centre for innovation that will showcase how space can enable future generations of telecommunications and connected applications is being developed.
The current opportunity “Space and 5G convergence: Transport & Logistics” is open for companies to submit ideas for demonstration projects focusing on the development and pilot of sustainable downstream services addressing UK Government’s…
The world space market is undergoing a deep transformation fuelled by the digitalisation of the economy and society. At the same time, many governments recognise the growing strategic importance of space.
10th FOKUS FUSECO FORUM: 5G Reality Check: State Of Play In 5G Technologies, Applications & How To Start With 5G
Invitations issued for full paper submission December 2019
Connecting people and machines to everything, everywhere and at all times through 5G networks promises to transform society.
The 2019 IEEE 2nd 5G World Forum (5GWF’19) aims to bring experts from industry, academia and research to exchange their vision as well as their achieved advances towards 5G, and encourage innovative cross-domain studies, research,…
ISAECT2019 is a forum for engineers, scientists & researchers to present their recent works and developments in Information and Communication Technologies, Smart Systems, and Electrical Engineering. Deadline for papers: July 10,…
A slew of demonstrations showing off 5G’s capabilities took place in Barcelona this week, thanks to satellites.
ESA’s first live demonstration of 5G by satellite began last week, as an ingenious set-up of European space and ground nodes showed a crowd in Berlin how it can help connect devices in the much-lauded ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).
The 5G Infrastructure Association (5G IA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signalled their intent to work together to enable new and innovative 5G solutions and services in support of European industry and the 5G vertical markets.