The GSMA and the European Space Agency (ESA) on Wednesday announced the signing of a memorandum of intent (MoI) that covers collaboration on new satellite and terrestrial network technologies. GSMA’s Foundry innovation accelerator will work closely with the ESA’s 5G/6G Hub based at the ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications in Harwell, Oxfordshire.
Non-terrestrial networking (NTN) has been incorporated into the 3GPP’s 5G specification since Release 17 (but not in the ITU-R M.2150 5G RIT/SRIT standard which covers only terrestrial networks), and work is already well underway to turn it into a commercial reality. The partnership between the GSMA and the ESA represents a more coordinated effort in that direction. What’s more, when it comes to 6G, non-terrestrial networking is expected to be baked in from the start. Again, cooperation between these two sectors will be invaluable.
The GSMA and ESA’s goal then is to create an ecosystem that can fast-track the development of new complimentary solutions for businesses and consumers. They also aim to accelerate the integration of satellite communications with 5G and, when the time comes, 6G networks.
“By collaborating more closely with the European Space Agency, and its satellite network operator ecosystem, we hope to accelerate the immense potential satellite and terrestrial telecommunications networks can create for consumers and businesses when they are more closely connected. By working together, we can help the communications industry bring innovative solutions to market, which in turn will create tremendous benefits to society by connecting even more people, wherever they are in the world,” said GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair, in a statement.
What the MoI means in practical terms is that the GSMA and ESA’s respective innovation hubs plan to start working together, sharing knowledge, ideas, and the outcomes of trials with one another.
On the telecoms side, the GSMA has the Foundry, which fosters collaboration between telcos and various industries with the aim of developing initial ideas into globally-scalable, commercial solutions. Completed projects include using 5G to enable drones to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), a 5G broadcast solution, and using 5G for automated farming solutions, among others.
Similarly, on the satellite side of the equation, the ESA has its 5G/6G Hub. Opened in February 2022, it provides a space where new 5G and satcom technologies can be developed and integrated. Developers can also use it to test and verify their 5G converged network applications and services. The ESA announced in January that it is expanding the facility to accommodate new areas of research, which it aims to identify via a consultation with industry experts.
Recent research findings by GSMAi showed that the increased adoption and integration of satellite technologies by the communications industry could lead to potential revenue gains of $35bn by 2035 (a 3% uplift on telecommunications industry revenues).
Speaking following the signing of the MOI at ECSAT in Oxfordshire, Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer at the GSMA said: “By collaborating more closely with the European Space Agency, and its satellite network operator ecosystem, we hope to accelerate the immense potential satellite and terrestrial telecommunications networks can create for consumers and businesses when they are more closely connected. By working together, we can help the communications industry bring innovative solutions to market, which in turn will create tremendous benefits to society by connecting even more people, wherever they are in the world.”
Antonio Franchi, Head of Space for 5G and 6G Strategic Programme, ESA, said: “Collaboration is key to telecommunications innovation and, from our 5G/6G Hub, we are fostering industry partnerships to advance the 5G digital transformation of society and industry. We look forward to working with GSMA to explore and realise the huge potential of next-generation satellite-enabled connectivity.”
ABI Research predicts that global 5G non-terrestrial networking (NTN) service revenue will achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 59% between 2024 and 2031, reaching $18 billion. By then, connections are expected to number 200 million.
The GSMA is a global organisation unifying the mobile ecosystem to discover, develop and deliver innovation foundational to positive business environments and societal change. Our vision is to unlock the full power of connectivity so that people, industry, and society thrive. Representing mobile operators and organisations across the mobile ecosystem and adjacent industries, the GSMA delivers for its members across three broad pillars: Connectivity for Good, Industry Services and Solutions, and Outreach. This activity includes advancing policy, tackling today’s biggest societal challenges, underpinning the technology and interoperability that make mobile work, and providing the world’s largest platform to convene the mobile ecosystem at the MWC and M360 series of events.
We invite you to find out more at gsma.com
For more information on GSMA Foundry, please visit: gsma.com/foundry
About the European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.
ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania are Associate Members.
ESA has established formal cooperation with five Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.
By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.
ABI Research and CCS Insight: Strong growth for satellite to mobile device connectivity (messaging and broadband internet access)