SaT5G project demonstrates 5G over satellite and holds industry briefing at University of Surrey

Surrey, United Kingdom – November 27th, 2019:  The SaT5G project today announces the completion of several successful demonstrations of 5G over satellite at an industry-briefing event held in the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, United Kingdom.

The SaT5G project is a Horizon 2020 collaborative project, funded by the European Commission, which has the vision to develop a cost-effective plug-and-play solution to integrate satellite communications with 5G networks. A key aspect was to engage with standards bodies, which together with the business modelling and technical solutions developed in the project has provided a foundation for equipment vendors, network operators and service providers to include satellite as an integrated component in 5G and future deployments. At the same time, the project will facilitate new and growing market opportunities for satellite communication industry stakeholders.

The project has for the first time successfully integrated satellite into 3GPP 5G testbed networks. Using the testbeds several 5G use-case demonstrations over live satellite links have been performed, with the satellite links performing several different tasks. The project performed research and demonstrated in the areas of direct and indirect connectivity for satellite to show satellites to be beneficial in delivering content to the network edge, providing backhaul to cellular base-stations, improving the broadband experience to premises, and providing connectivity to aircraft moving platforms through emulated Geostationary (GEO) and over-the-air Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite connectivity.

Two of the main technological advances in 5G are the virtualisation of network functions (VNFs) and the use of end-to-end slices providing network services with specified quality of service (QoS). The SaT5G project has succeeded in designing and deploying several satellite-specific VNFs on OpenStack and Kubernetes, and in developing an integrated architecture so that satellite links can seamlessly carry network slices.

The workshop, which was attended by representatives from both the mobile, fixed network and satellite industries, discussed the future of satellites in 5G from both a technical as well as business viewpoint.

The SaT5G project proposed the following 5G use cases as being pertinent to integrated satellite delivery.

  • 5G backhaul to a fixed terminal
  • Edge delivery of & offload for multimedia content
  • 5G to the premises
  • Moving platform use-case

The first three use cases above were demonstrated during the workshop over a live satellite network via Avanti’s GEO HYLAS 4 satellite and using ST Engineering iDirect’s 5G-enabled Intelligent Gateway (IGW) satellite ground infrastructure that to the University of Surrey (5GIC) 5G testbed core network to 5G UE terminals in small 5G cells. All the 5GIC testbed use cases use this integrated 5G Non-Terrestrial-Network (NTN) system for the live satellite connectivity. The moving platform use-case, hosted at,  Zodiac Inflight innovations testbed in Munich, was demonstrated using a video recording of a live demonstration over SES’s O3b O3B MEO satellite system operated by SES, using terminals from SES and Gilat and a core network from Quortus.

5G backhaul to a fixed terminal

This demonstration illustrated the architecture implemented for an NTN relay 5G integrated satellite terminal that is directly connected via a Satellite RAN at the Hylas 4 satellite gateway hub in Goonhilly  to the 5G Core network in the Surrey 5G testbed and out to the 5G UE’s. It showed how the terminal and gateway network functions have been virtualised on the OpenStack platform and orchestrated ETSI MANO compliant OSM. 5GIC testbed also used SDN switched sliced network to integrate the satellite backhaul with terrestrial 5G mobile network slices.

Edge delivery of multimedia content

This demonstration showed over-the-air satellite multicast technology for the delivery of live video channels using a MEC platform for Content Delivery Network (CDN) integration with efficient edge content delivery. The demonstration highlighted the benefits, in terms of bandwidth efficiency, delivery cost and end-user Quality of Experience (QoE), of using a satellite-enabled link for provisioning live content in a 5G system.

5G to the premises

These demonstrations included the complementary use of satellite with terrestrial networks for delivery to home/office small cell in underserved areas.

Over-the-air MEC-based layered video streaming over a 5G multilink satellite and terrestrial network

The demonstration displayed a network, which integrated 5G over parallel satellite and terrestrial delivery paths to provide enhanced Quality of Experience (QoE) for users consuming 4K video content. The innovative demonstration highlighted how a Video-segment Scheduling Network Function (VSNF) which is deployed at MEC can incorporate bit-rate adaptation, link selection and enhance video streams for future satellite and terrestrial integrated networks.

Backhauling to extend services for rural markets and large-gathering events

This demonstration showed how a standard 5G User Equipment (UE) leverages a hybrid backhaul and validates the performance required by 5G services. The solution provides tangible measurements of very high Quality of Experience (QoE) achieved by combining satellite-terrestrial links bandwidths for fast upload and download traffic and the terrestrial link low latency for interactive traffic. The demonstrated 5G-hybrid backhaul relies on state-of-the-art MPTCP, MPQUIC multipath protocols, and shows satellite as a viable backhaul link for 5G service.

New Radio Air interface over the satellite

Demonstrated changes needed in the uplink random access process such that 5G NR can be used over long propagation distances exceeding the terrestrial cell size. An NTN terminal is connected to an NTN base station through an emulated satellite channel, and timing advance calculation and transmission, as well as uplink random access signal guard interval, are changed. The system was connected to a 5G testbed to show that end-to-end data can be transmitted through the system, to provide backhaul connection to a base station.

5G to moving platform backhaul

The 5G moving platform backhaul demonstrated for the first-time application of 5G technology for aircraft connectivity and content distribution services. The 5G testbed led by Zodiac Inflight innovations was successfully used for virtualised network services.  A video recording provided a live demonstration of the SaT5G R&D activities undertaken by Zodiac Inflight innovations in cooperation with SES, Gilat, Quortus, Broadpeak, and i2CAT. Specifically, Gilat’s VSAT terminal and virtualised SkyEdge II-c hub were demonstrated over an emulated GEO satellite system. Deployment of Quortus’ virtualised mobile core on-board was also demonstrated to deliver both internet access, and local breakout content based on Broadpeak’s content delivery service, with all services, managed and configured by the i2CAT’s Terrestrial and Satellite coordination framework – TALENT. The testbed also included a first-of-its-kind 5G over-the-air non-GEO satellite system setup, relying on SES’s high-throughput O3b MEO HTS satellite constellation and end-to-end managed services. The satellite backhaul in those test beds used Gilat’s satellite network technology.

5G Edge Caching

This demonstration showed the improvements in streaming content quality, which are enabled by local content caching. Increased delays introduced by satellite links result in lowering of bitrate and resolution (adaptation) for HTTP based streaming. Local caching of content improves this situation. It is based on local access to DANE client running on MEC (Multi-Access and Edge Computing) node. The MEC node located next to eNB was connected to the core network using established satellite and terrestrial backhaul links. User Plane Function (UPF) at a MEC node was used to handle requests for the local content and to set up connections via core network to the content server thus optimally could request video segments over the satellite link. The innovation here is the ability to set up connections for downloading content with the DASH Enabled Network Element (DANE) collocated with the UPF.

Business models and economic viability of integrated satellite-5G networks

Researchers from imec and BT presented the results of the business modelling work within the SaT5G project. Different theoretical models were developed for the specific case of evaluating the economic viability and market strategy of integrated satellite-5G networks. First, specific business models for a brokerage role in managing the interactions between satellite and terrestrial operators were proposed. Second, a Total Cost of Ownership model allowed identifying the ranges of economic profitability for the different use cases. Third, a dedicated allocation model was built to investigate the savings in resource usage network slicing could bring to the use cases. The results show that an integrated satellite-5G network can provide an alternative to terrestrial-only solutions, if use is made of edge caching, slicing and third party management.

Mike Fitch, Technical Manager of SaT5G said: “SaT5G is about integrating satellite links with heavy emphasis on standardisation to allow trusted operation and to facilitate industry adoption. The focus is on eMBB to fixed and mobile networks, including support for orchestration and slicing, with the satellite links providing backhaul connectivity either alone or in parallel (multilink) connectivity with terrestrial links. Innovations from the project include satellite modem VNFs, business process modelling including brokers, and improved multicast and multilink algorithms for use with satellite”.

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