By Denis Sutherland, Vice President of Business Development, VT iDirect
Today, I’m chairing the Satellite Terminal Working Group’s (STWG) special meeting Satellite Communications and their Role in 5G and presenting on the topic of “Bringing 5G to VSAT Terminals.”
The STWG is part of the Innovative UK Knowledge Transfer Network, which seeks to link together business and universities to share ideas and the latest discoveries. We’re holding the meeting at the University of Surrey, located just a bit southwest of London, in their 5G Innovation Centre, a top-rate research centre dedicated to the development of the next generation of mobile and wireless communications.
5G is a perfect topic for the STWG to explore, as it has major implications for satellite communications and cross-industry collaboration will be essential if VSAT is to take advantage of future opportunities in cellular backhaul, connected vehicles, and the Internet of Things. Satellite terminals have to adapt to service new applications, so this will likely require unique form factors, much smaller sizes, and dual cellular/VSAT capabilities.
We want VSAT to be accessible as an extension of 5G networks, to achieve “plug-and-play” functionality and bring coverage to places where traditional terrestrial struggles. This will require adding greater programmability to VSAT networks, incorporating industry standard 5G interfaces to both terminals and hub-side components, and harmonizing the management plane to seamlessly transfer services between VSAT and 5G access points.
Unlike the past evolution of cellular technologies, the satellite industry is actively engaged with the major standards bodies. To that end, iDirect is a participating member of both the Satellite & Terrestrial Network for 5G (SaT5G) funded by the European Commission (EU) and the Satellite for 5G Initiative funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).
This cross-industry collaboration signals a revolution within satellite communications, where we are working together to mold 5G so satellite can play a role.