Ericsson, Qualcomm Technologies and Thales have decided to enter smartphone-use-case-focused testing and validation of 5G non-terrestrial networks (5G NTN).
The result could effectively mean that a future 5G smartphone could use 5G connectivity anywhere on Earth and provide complete global coverage for wideband data services, including places normally only covered by legacy satellite phone systems with limited data connectivity capabilities.
Erik Ekudden, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Ericsson, says, “This testing and validation cooperation between Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies will be a major milestone in the history of communications as the ultimate result could effectively mean that no matter where you are on Earth – in the middle of an ocean or the remotest forest – high-end, secure and cost-effective connectivity will be available through collaborative 5G satellite and terrestrial connectivity.”
John Smee, senior vice president, engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., says, “For 5G to fulfill on the promise of ubiquitous connectivity, it is imperative that it can also deliver network coverage in areas where terrestrial cellular networks do not exist, whether that be over oceans or in remote areas. Our planned research with Ericsson and Thales will kick off an important step in making this vital technology a reality. We are looking forward to what this collaboration can accomplish.”
Philippe Keryer, executive vice president, strategy, research and technology, Thales, says, “The deployment of 5G networks marks a step-change for the telecoms industry. It is a game-changer, not only in terms of business opportunities but also in the skills required to connect and protect billions of people and things. Thales is deeply involved in it through the different activities of the Group. The research collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies will demonstrate the belief of our companies that 5G non-terrestrial Networks will contribute to this revolution and will take network resiliency and security to the next level. ”
Ekudden adds, “While it is too early to say when any resulting 5G equipped prototype satellite could be launched into orbit for real operational use, the highly technical ground-based testing and validation work planned between Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies is key to making it happen.”
The testing and validation by Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies following the March 2022 go-ahead by 3GPP – the global telecommunications standards’ body – is intended to support non-terrestrial networks for the first time.
The goal of the testing will be to validate various technology components needed to enable 5G non-terrestrial networks, including a 5G smartphone, satellite payload and 5G network pieces on the ground.
Ericsson plans to verify a 5G virtual RAN (vRAN) stack, modified to handle radio signals propagating (what happens to 5G radio waves traveling through the vacuum of space and the Earth’s atmosphere) via the fast-moving LEO satellites.
Thales plans to verify a 5G radio satellite payload suitable for deployment on LEO satellites, while Qualcomm Technologies plans to provide test phones verifying that 5G NTN can be accessed by future 5G smartphones.