Satellites key for 5G

CommunicAsia Show Daily

Without next generation satellites, 5G networks will take longer to deploy, lack the necessary coverage and will be more expensive to build, a satellite industry executive told a keynote audience at CommunicAsia2017. 

Dr Ashok Rao, VP of product development at O3b Networks, said that the current generation of GEO, MEO and LEO satellites has a critical role to play in making 5G a reality, and that new networks will be transformative for the satellite business, during his presentation: “The Future of the Global Network.” 

The satellite business, he said, “is not a dinosaur industry for rural and remote communities any more.” 

There had been a “lot of innovation” in the satellite industry, and terrestrial infrastructure alone will not be able to deliver networks which can truly be rated as 5G. 

“A major characteristic of 5G is 99.9% coverage, and that’s where satellite comes in,” said Rao. 

“Traditionally satellite has been used in places which are remote and not well connected, but new use cases in 5G such as autonomous cars require the almost universal coverage which satellite can support.” 

Data hungry users are driving a big uptake in the use of mobile video, and satellites also has a role in delivering this capacity. 

Rao quoted UK research which claims that to deliver 5G in the UK requires an additional 400,000 masts, each about 25 meters high. 

“Britain is not a large geography, so imagine what would be required in larger countries,” he said. 

“But this is not going to happen in the UK, because of the zoning and community issues which would require negotiation.” 

Rao said next generation GEO satellites are significantly more powerful than those launched only ten years ago. 

Satellites launched in 2007 had a capacity of 8Gbps and download speeds of 2 Mbps, while those launched in 2020 will offer 800Gbps and 100 Mbps, respectively. 

“Satellites will enable low cost access to 5G, and reduce the capex burden on operators,” he said.

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