5G NTN Takes Flight: Technical Overview of 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks

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  • Author: Reiner Stuhlfauth

5G non-terrestrial networks (NTN) is a technology aiming to enable 5G user terminals on or close to the earth’s surface to connect to non-terrestrial base stations located on satellites. We consider it to be a technology that has still to undergo much long-term evolution. The objective of this white paper is to provide an overview of the major aspects of the technology and corresponding challenges. We have tried to incorporate the latest state of the technology involved, representing the current status of the standardization work ongoing in 3GPP. As 5G NTN is evolving and will no doubt continue to evolve, note that the information provided in this white paper is subject to change and expansion.

There are two major market ecosystems driving and innovating both the technology and business use cases and services: wireless communications and aerospace. We note that 5G NTN results in convergences between these two ecosystems. We admit that as the author’s background is the wireless ecosystem, we assume that the greatest innovations to arise from the development of NTN will be on the wireless side. Beyond doubt, this white paper concentrates on the wireless perspective. It is not our intention to diminish the contribution of the aerospace ecosystem which will be essential to the success of 5G NTN. Do not underestimate the significance of aerospace issues but accept our apologies that we decided to produce this white paper with the focus on 5G.

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