Ericsson, Qualcomm and Thales to Launch 5G into Space

Telecommunications company Ericsson, aerospace company Thales, and wireless technology manufacturer Qualcomm Technologies, have announced they plan to launch 5G across a network of Earth-orbiting satellites.

Following the approval for satellite-driven 5G non-terrestrial networks (5G NTNs) from the 3GPP global telecommunications standards’ body; Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies will commence the initial work of 5G NTN testing and validation in an emulated space environment in France to corroborate various technology components needed to enable 5G non-terrestrial networks, including a 5G smartphone, satellite payload and 5G network pieces on the ground.

“This testing and validation cooperation between Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies will be a major milestone in the history of communications as the ultimate result could effectively mean that no matter where you are on Earth – in the middle of an ocean or the remotest forest – high-end, secure and cost-effective connectivity will be available through collaborative 5G satellite and terrestrial connectivity,” said Erik Ekudden, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Ericsson.

As planned, Ericsson will verify a 5G virtual RAN (vRAN) stack, modified to handle 5G radio waves travelling through the vacuum of space and the Earth’s atmosphere via fast-moving LEO satellites.

On the other hand, Thales plans to verify a 5G radio satellite payload suitable for deployment on LEO satellites, while Qualcomm Technologies plans to provide test phones verifying that 5G NTN can be accessed by future 5G smartphones.

“For 5G to fulfill on the promise of ubiquitous connectivity, it is imperative that it can also deliver network coverage in areas where terrestrial cellular networks do not exist, whether that be over oceans or in remote areas. Our planned research with Ericsson and Thales will kick off an important step in making this vital technology a reality. We are looking forward to what this collaboration can accomplish,” said John Smee, senior vice president of engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

“The deployment of 5G networks marks a step change for the telecoms industry. It is a game changer, not only in terms of business opportunities but also in the skills required to connect and protect billions of people and things. Thales is deeply involved in it through the different activities of the Group.  The research collaboration with Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies will demonstrate the belief of our companies that 5G non-terrestrial Networks will contribute to this revolution and will take network resiliency and security to the next level,” said Philippe Keryer, Executive Vice-President, Strategy, Research and Technology, Thales.

According to the partners, the benefits of 5G connectivity via low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are expected to include coverage in extreme geographies or remote areas across seas, oceans and other locations where terrestrial coverage is absent or limited.