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Ericsson, Qualcomm and Thales partner on 5G non-terrestrial networks

The space-based network could eventually pave the way for ubiquitous connectivity

In a first, Ericsson, Qualcomm, and Thales have teamed up to test and validate 5G non-terrestrial networks (5G NTN). 

The global telecommunications standards' body 3GPP had given green light for the same in March.

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Besides examining various technology components vital to enabling 5G non-terrestrial networks, including a 5G smartphone, satellite payload, and 5G network pieces on the ground, the trio will work to ascertain whether the proposed 5G NTN can be sustained in a smartphone form factor. The move will ensure future smartphones can double as satellite phones. 

The preliminary 5G NTN tests will commence in France, which is home to a vast majority of European space-focused facilities.

As for the test strategy, Ericsson will verify a 5G virtual RAN (vRAN) stack, tailored to handle radio signals propagating from fast-moving LEO satellites.

Thales is set to verify a 5G radio satellite payload suited for deployment on LEO satellites, while Qualcomm plans to ‌demonstrate the use of 5G NTN in future‌ ‌smartphones through test devices.

“The result could effectively mean that a future 5G smartphone could use 5G connectivity anywhere on Earth and provide complete global coverage for wideband data services, including places normally only covered by legacy satellite phone systems with limited data connectivity capabilities,” explained Ericsson.

“The space-based network could also be used as back-up support to terrestrial networks in the event of major network outages or disasters.”

“The expected security capabilities of 5G NTNs mean that national government communications may be a main use case, to enhance safe and secure national security and public safety government networks,” added Ericsson.

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