5g signals reaching satellites in space
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Samsung Electronics announced on February 23 that it has demonstrated satellite-based standardized 5G non-terrestrial networks modem technology for the first time. This means the Exynos Modem 5300 reference platform can send signals directly from satellites to mobile phones at 5G speeds, potentially opening up faster communication in rural areas and providing a stepping stone for Samsung’s 6G ambitions. However, the company has not yet rolled it out or announced whether the feature will be available on its phones.

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Non-terrestrial networks for emergencies or rural connectivity

The primary potential use case is to improve cell coverage in areas where terrain or distance make it difficult for cell tower signals to reach. This might allow more consistent access for rural customers, for example.

Samsung proposed that non-terrestrial networks could also improve operability in disaster areas. The company’s demonstration showed the proposed capability will be able to handle high-definition video and image as well as two-way messaging, putting it a step ahead of competitors such as Apple. Theoretically, satellite-based 5G could power future urban air mobility such as drones and flying cars, if they were to pan out.

SEE: TTP develops 5G non-terrestrial network digital twin (TechRepublic)

Test performed on Exynos platform

The 5G connection was simulated on Samsung’s Exynos Modem 5300 reference platform, paving the way for the company’s plans to roll out this capability across the Exynos modem line. The demonstration showed Samsung’s solution can successfully manage some problems that would otherwise arise with satellite connections, the company said.

In particular, Samsung demonstrated accurately predicting satellite locations and minimizing frequency offsets caused by the Doppler shift. Samsung has not yet announced which satellite operator will run the connection on the space side.

The non-terrestrial networks project uses 5G standards according to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP Release 17), providing future-looking interoperability with other participating telecom carriers, mobile device makers and chip companies.

Looking forward to 6G and narrowband IoT

Samsung positions this development as a look forward to both 6G and future Internet of Things use cases. In the future, Samsung plans to secure a standardized narrowband IoT non-terrestrial networks technology for use in its next-generation modem platforms; this will enable mobile device makers to use narrowband IoT solutions instead of a separate high-power wireless antenna chip inside smartphones.

“Samsung aims to take the lead in advancing hybrid terrestrial-NTN communications ecosystems around the world in preparation for the arrival of 6G,” said Min Goo Kim, executive vice president of communication processor development at Samsung.

SEE: The potential use cases for 6G (TechRepublic)

Cell providers reaching into space

Other companies position satellite service as an alternative to over-burdened cellular networks.

In August 2022, T-Mobile announced a plan to use SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellations to extend coverage in the United States. T-Mobile proposed it as a cellular solution for very remote areas such as national parks, sparsely populated areas such as deserts or over the ocean. AT&T signed an agreement with OneWeb in 2021 to provide satellite connections for more widely available high-speed signals.

In November 2022, Apple announced satellite service for the iPhone 14 line for emergency calling. This enables text messaging directly to emergency services or dropping a pin on the Find My app.

In January 2023, Qualcomm announced Snapdragon Satellite for phones running Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform, which includes the Samsung Galaxy S23 smartphones. Qualcomm partnered with satellite operator Iridium for services in orbit. GPS-enabled technology company Garmin is also involved in the deal.

In other telecommunications news, Microsoft expanded space connectivity in a preview for government customers in September 2022, IBM is working on satellite-based hybrid clouds services and the IoT Tech Expo in December 2022 showcased a wide array of satellite use cases .