Role of 5G & Integration of Satellite and Terrestrial Communication System for IoT Applications

5G is a lot in news these days, but have we thought about how it is going to change our lives? Is it just the next-generation of 4G or something more?

Well, 5G is a huge leap from 4G!!

Imagine this: Today, when we plan to go to a nearby restaurant we set our location and then look for reviews. After we decide the restaurant we use navigation tools that gives us the direction to the restaurant.

With 5G enabled smartphones it will be possible to simply scan our surroundings and viola – Nearby cafes and restaurants will pop on your screen while scanning and will display the reviews as well.

Another relatable example: We all share photos and videos on Instagram. We attend a friend’s wedding and click pictures and everyone shares their photos and videos on their social media post. However, there is no solution yet which promotes collaborated & simultaneous photo & video editing.  5G can bring in collaborative editing where the media can be viewed in a single place and wouldn’t be shown as a combined project.  

Finally, how many of us want to put on futuristic glasses for having a conference call with colleagues distributed across the globe? It will be like you are present in the same meeting room. 

5G promises higher bandwidth, a very low-latency and much faster speeds that fulfill the need of these and many more use cases.

The other set of applications which will greatly benefit from 5G is the IoT industry. 5G networks, which are next-generation terrestrial networks, will greatly support advanced IoT deployments. 5G network can support on-the-go IoT applications.

5G and IoT go hand in hand.  

5G is not only about people communicating with each other but objects communicating themselves with each other and with humans around them, anytime and anywhere.

Imagine the Possibilities!!

5G aims to provide a ubiquitous network that will enable us to be connected everywhere, and with everything at all time. 5G will make it possible to connect homes, cars, cities and even hospitals and send information instantly at every moment irrespective of the amount of data required.

5G trials are already on-going across various countries and is set to launch this year.

Integration of Satellite and Terrestrial for IoT

Another concept which is also being explored with the emergence of 5G is “heterogeneous global communication system” for the IoT use cases.

Heterogeneous global communication or hybrid network means the integration of satellite and terrestrial (3G, 4G, LTE, upcoming 5G, etc.)  communications. In the past satellite and terrestrial communications have evolved independently. Satellite communication which is used for TV, navigation, military and internet applications has inherent capabilities including global coverage, multicasting and broadcasting capabilities. Terrestrial communication which is based on land-based towers suffers coverage issues and cannot cater to the uninterrupted coverage and unprecedented capacity.

The complementary capabilities of the satellite and terrestrial communication architecture can be integrated together to build a ubiquitous IoT network. The coverage gap issue of terrestrial networks can be easily complemented by accessibility and multicast services offered by satellite communication.     

This integrated satellite/terrestrial architecture can enable a number of IoT applications.

  • Land: Autonomous car – While terrestrial networks can be used for performing zero latency and time critical driving assistance functions such as braking/steering, the inherent nature of broadcast and ubiquity of the satellite could be used to perform multicast updates to cars.
  • Maritime: Autonomous ship connectivity is another use case that will become an important trend with the integrated satellite-terrestrial systems.  These systems could enable transfer of location information to remote control center and data communication with other ships or navigation in coastal areas. For instance, a shipping container connected by satellite in the ocean could switch to being linked by a cellular network near a port. The current infrastructure is not suitable for this scenario and thus hybrid networks will pave the way for an emerging area of autonomous shipping. 
  • Another example is the use of such networks in military operations. Such missions are critical and need reliable and always available networks. In case during an emergency operation cellular networks are not available the operations will be backed up by the satellite solution.

IoT cannot exist without the support of satellite and 5G companies and solution providers.

Related Industry Updates  

Few factors significant for the deployment of the hybrid network are listed below:

  • The standardization of 5G will define the implementation of on-the-move applications using hybrid networks.
  • There have been several activities related to LEO satellite recently and flat-panel antennas for GEO/LEO satelllites. While developers of electronically steered antennas such as Kymeta, Arralis and Phasor are mostly focused on markets including connected cars, maritime, government and defense, the other set of antenna makers such as Isotropic systems are focusing on consumer markets as well.
  • Innovative efforts are also being made by satellite companies to develop satellite ecosystem to enable seamless operation with the terrestrial cell coverage.
  • Management Connectivity platforms such as Nokia WING and platforms offered by others such as Aeris Communication is another significant step towards building an infrastructure for 5G.

There are a number of partnerships already happening in the market related to end-terminals, applications and supply-chain partners to make this concept a reality. The hybrid concept is surely bringing a big transformation phase for the satellite industry. Future trials and new use cases across different vertical markets enabled by the integrated satellite-terrestrial 5G network will define the rapid expansion of IoT markets.

I will try to cover a section of partnerships in one of my future blogs to create some insight related to the future potential targets for collaboration.

Sources: Globalstar, Kymeta, European Space Agency, Qualcomm

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