Extra terrestrial satellite 5G would offer backhaul and broadband
Equipment maker Ericsson, French aerospace group Thales and US chipmaker Qualcomm are to collaborate on a satellite-driven 5G network to improve terrestrial connectivity, reports Reuters. A 5G mobile device that can connect with satellites would make communication possible from remote corners of the planet and provide an alternative to expensive satellite phones and broadband internet service providers, such as Elon Musk’s Starlink.
In June AST SpaceMobile announced a scheme with similar ambitions to link satellite broadband to standard mobiles. It plans to launch its BlueWalker 3 test satellite on August 15 in Florida’s Cape Canaveral space complex, weather conditions permitting. Its CEO Abel Avellan has spoken of the satellite company’s mission to close the class gap between the haves and have nots. The Ericsson/Thales/Qualcomm pact will initially conduct simulations on the ground before carrying out tests in space, Hakan Djuphammar, head of Special Projects at Ericsson’s technology arm told the media.
Testing takes time
“Discussions are on for testing on the International Space Station and with a few satellites,” said Djuphammar. A space-network would make a useful back up to terrestrial networks in the event of major outages, disasters or aggression by hostile nations. It could also offer connections to places on earth unreached by traditional service providers. Testing may proceed long into 2023 as the partners need to establish whether the satellite-to-phone service is technically feasible and whether it is worth building a network of satellites that can connect with phones, Djuphammar said. He did not specify when the tests would begin. “The satellites move very fast, so the link changes very rapidly. So we are going to do all those tests to validate that the technology is mature and ready to perform these thing,” said Djuphammer.
Meanwhile, AST Spacemobile appears to be years ahead, even though the technology and ambitions may be slightly different. “BlueWalker 3 is the culmination of years of effort to connect the phone in your pocket directly with one of our satellites without modifications,” Abel Avellan, Chairman and CEO of AST SpaceMobile, said in June. “Our mission is to eliminate the connectivity gaps faced by more than 5 billion mobile subscribers today moving in and out of coverage and bring cellular broadband to approximately half of the world’s population who remain unconnected. We want to close the gap between the digital haves and the have nots.”