The future communications system referred to as 5G represents far more than just the next generation of terrestrial mobile services. It will drive a convergence of fixed and mobile services, introduce a new set of technologies and standards, create a network of networks and facilitate communications between everyone and everything, whilst focusing on some key vertical markets.
Satellite systems have useful attributes for 5G in terms of security, resilience, coverage, mobility and delivery of broadband; and in this future environment the choice of communication technology should be transparent to the end user and based upon location, type of service and cost efficiency. 5G thus provides a major opportunity for the space sector to deliver parts of the future generation of communications networks and services.
Accordingly, ESA and the European space industry have joined forces to develop and demonstrate the added value that satellite brings to 5G. On 21 June 2017, at the Paris Air and Space show, ESA and 16 satellite industry leaders signed a Joint Statement (JS) on their collaboration in the realm of ‘Satellite for 5G’. As part of an initiative for the period 2018–20 and beyond, ESA will work together with satellite operators, service providers and manufacturers on:
- 5G service trials, with a focus on selected vertical market sectors targeted by 5G such as transport, public safety and media and entertainment;
- cross-cutting activities in the areas of applications development, standardisation, resource management, interoperability demonstrations and supporting technologies; and
- outreach activities.
Crucially, these efforts align with and build upon the existing initiatives of the European Commission on 5G and are intended to complement other European, national and international initiatives.
Indeed the JS advocates further convergence between European industry and institutions on 5G, which was reiterated at the ESA/European Space Policy Institute conference in Brussels on ‘Space and Satcom for 5G: European Transport and Connected Mobility’, 27–28 June 2017. As the conference noted, ESA is defining a framework to support future industrial activities and is working with the EC in particular to coordinate and strengthen institutional support in Europe for satellite-5G convergence.
Parties who are interested in signing up to the Joint Statement and its associated activities may apply to do so by sending an email to 5G@esa.int