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British Satellite Firm OneWeb to Test 5G Mobile from Space

Thursday, Sep 8th, 2022 (9:53 am) - Score 1,848

British-registered satellite broadband operator OneWeb has joined with the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey (5GIC) and CGI to launch a new 5G-Pilot Test project, which will trial the ability to harness the firm’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) network to communicate with terrestrial 5G mobile devices (phones etc.).

Over the past few years, we’ve seen various new technologies (here) that could make it possible to harness the new generation of ultrafast broadband satellites in a much Lower Earth Orbit to deliver affordable 4G (LTE) and 5G mobile services – using common standards – over a wide area (global roaming), often without consumers needing to buy a new handset.

One of the first operators to take advantage of this is Starlink from SpaceX (here) and now OneWeb has announced their new 5G-Pilot Test project, which aims to do something similar. The pilot, which is being jointly funded by both the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA) under the Sunrise Partnership Project, is expected to last 18 months and actually started earlier this year.

The scheme comprises three high level components, which are (1) development, testing and validation of OneWeb’s low-latency satellite network capability to transport 5G services in backhaul; (2) development, testing and validation of the ability of OneWeb’s prototype beam hopping “Joey-Sat” satellite to transport 5G services in backhaul; and (3) testing of backhauling from a mobile 5G base-station to a 5G core network to provide seamless mobile connectivity for transport.

The goal is that end-users will experience the same quality of service, unaware of the technical complexities that have been overcome to allow divergent technologies to work seamlessly together. In addition, it’s stated that 5G via satellite solutions like this could enable mobile coverage to tackle “areas currently impossible to reach via traditional terrestrial services“.

Massimiliano Ladovaz, CTO of OneWeb, said:

“Creating an interoperable Low Earth Orbit satellite communications and mobile 5G network is critical to achieve a ubiquitous, affordable, fast and consistent connectivity experience to businesses, users and governments. That’s why we’re excited by this opportunity to test the future of global 5G connectivity across the OneWeb network.

With our talented partners and with the support from ESA and the UK Space Agency, this pilot is an important step in our mission to connect people everywhere, on land, at sea and in the air, providing the opportunity for people to realise their full potential even in the remotest reaches of the planet.”

OneWeb’s role in the project will be to turn the technologies into a market ready product by developing the technical and operational elements to offer the service, although the other consortium members will also contribute in different ways.

The 5GIC at the University of Surrey will bring their knowledge and expertise of both satellite and 5G terrestrial networks, act as the ‘reference’ Mobile Network Operator (MNO) within the project and provide test-bed resources with end-to-end slice MNO middleware, 5G core network (made in the UK), SDN infrastructure, QoS management and test RAN.

CGI brings its UK developed enterprise-scale capability for 5G / satellite network management and integration. The company will deliver and integrate a 5G enabled connectivity solution for mobility, demonstrated using a road vehicle, using a Druid Software 5G core network, allowing users to seamlessly roam on the move using OneWeb.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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4 Responses
  1. Avatar photo John says:

    Anti-vaxxers will be throwing Molotov cocktails at the satellites!

    1. Avatar photo Tomo says:

      Leave them to it, what goes up must come down 🙂

    2. Avatar photo Yatta! says:

      The thick loons will set themselves alight before they even lob the bottles… if they survive they’ll be begging for medical treatment from the same professionals they accused of ‘genocide’…

  2. Avatar photo jayteedc says:

    Unlike Elon Musk’s system and the AST Spacemobile system (or the planned Ericsson/Thales/Qualcomm system), this isn’t 5G from space, just demonstrating that OneWeb can backhaul from a remote 5G mast.

    Vodafone Ukraine have already proven that cellular networks can be backhauled over LEO satellites when they deployed Starlink dishes to help get their network back operational in liberated towns outside of Kiev.


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