The Role of Space-based Communications in the 5G Era

The mobile industry is ushering in the 5G communications era. New standards are being finalised, testbeds are proving technology worldwide and the first commercial services have recently been launched. 5G will enhance consumer mobile services and enable a plethora of new use cases to serve a broad range of sectors from healthcare to education and from manufacturing to transportation. The GSMA characterises the 5G era as an “age of boundless connectivity and intelligent automation.” Communication networks will have a more pervasive role in society, with the aim of connecting everyone and everything, anywhere in the world and whenever they need it. More than any previous mobile generation, 5G technology will expand connectivity to more people and devices than ever before, with the potential to generate economic and social benefits for consumers, entire industries and society in general.

Realising the vision for 5G and meeting the requirements for a diverse set of use cases will require new ways of designing and delivering mobile network connectivity and coverage. In this respect, the evolution to 5G will be far more transformative than past mobile generational shifts. More so than previous generations, 5G will rely on many technologies to create a network of networks,including 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and satellites, which are more aptly described as space-based platforms. Furthermore, the networks will be designed for flexibility and programmability by incorporating Software-Defined Networking(SDN), network virtualization, automation, network slicing and architectures such as edge computing. The evolution to 5G is potentially momentous for the mobile industry. But typical of major technological change, the hype surrounding 5G risks promising too much, too soon and inflating expectations.This whitepaper presents a clear-eyed view of the 5G market, explains why 5G will be a network of networks, and examines how spaced-based communications systems will be critical components of mobile network operators’ 5G strategies.

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