Connectivity has become the backbone of the modern world, and its evolution a key indicator and driver of growth in the economy. As such, connectivity needs to be efficient, reliable, and constantly improving to lead and support the increasingly digital world.
The rollout and uptake of 5G and 6G (5G/6G) at full speed will deliver the required attributes and connectivity fabric, which will enable the digitalization of industry and society. By 2025, the number of 5G mobile subscriptions is expected to reach 2.8 billion, and the annual global economic output enabled by the 5G/6G economy is expected to be $13.2 trillion by 2035 (source: IHS Markit). To deliver on its promises and to fulfil expectations, 5G and 6G will require ubiquitous and uninterrupted coverage at unprecedented capacity, which terrestrial networks alone cannot guarantee.
Satellite networks have unique attributes in geographically distributed and dynamic networks, that can complement and integrate with ground-based communications to ensure that the benefits of 5G and future 6G are not just limited to urban areas. 5G/6G based satellite-terrestrial networks will address markets that are currently difficult to serve, thus solving crucial challenges, some of which are listed below:
• Extending service coverage to unserved areas where the deployment of terrestrial-only networks is not feasible or economically viable, thus helping to bridge the digital divide.
• Ensuring service continuity for all users, especially for 5G/6G-native technologies and applications.
• Providing connectivity to millions of devices (Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT)) in distributed or decentralized networks. The road from 5G to 6G will take us from the existing IoT services to MIoT (Massive Internet of Things), a massive number of connected devices.
• Providing connectivity to moving platforms such as vessels, aircrafts, trains and disaster relief vehicles.
Many vertical markets will be enhanced and enabled by 5G/6G connectivity, each having different requirements and quality of service criteria, making the use of satellite technologies key to address them all. Some examples of such verticals include:
Autonomous vehicles – provide ubiquitous connectivity to expand the deployment of autonomous cars, trains, and ships.
Agro-industry – deliver broadband access and enable smart agriculture for an industry mostly located outside of urban areas with hybrid 5G/6G satellite-terrestrial networks.
Utilities – improve critical infrastructure monitoring, such as water treatment, in remote areas.
Telemedicine– improve access for patients far away from health facilities.
Extraction industries – provide connectivity to oil & gas offshore platforms and mines.
Transport & Logistics – provide connectivity for monitoring, multimedia, infotainment and Over-The-Air services to moving platforms.
Media & Entertainment – provide broadband service with broadcast/multicast to network edges.
Public safety – allow for immediate infrastructure deployment for critical communications with satellite networks.