Wireless

GateHouse SatCom contributes to the 3GPP 5G NB-IoT NTN release

31st May 2022
Kiera Sowery

GateHouse SatCom has contributed technical expertise to 3GPP’s first-ever 5G NB-IoT standards for Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTNs). The company became an Individual Member of ETSI and an active participant in 3GPP’s long-awaited Release 17, aiming to include satellite capabilities to reach hard-to-cover areas.

Ever since 3GPP was established in 1998, the primary focus has been on “ground-based” Terrestrial Networks (TNs) and the technology that powers them. 

However, with 3GPP’s Release 15 standardising fifth generation (5G) wireless technology - later optimising it with Release 16 - interest in satellite-driven 5G communication has grown significantly, enhancing the demand for the future development of Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) and the service they can provide. 

GateHouse SatCom, an innovative satellite company and pioneering IoT technology developer with over twenty years of satcom experience, contributes its wealth of technical knowledge to standardising Release 17’s 5G NB-IoT NTN specifications. This contribution will help facilitate connectivity between IoT devices via NTs and NTNs worldwide — now and in the future. 

"Today, we are at the forefront of developing waveforms for the so-called 3GPP 5G NB-IoT NTN satellite standards, which will be part of the future 5G technology delivered via space. By participating in the standardisation process, it is our ambition to play a crucial part in unleashing the enormous potential of the market within just a few years," said Thomas Scott Jensen, CEO of Gatehouse SatCom. 

5G NB-IoT is a wireless communication standard that uses wide-area (WA) technology designed for IoT devices that enable low power, high-speed, and energy-efficient wireless connectivity. 

After joining 3GPP in 2020, GateHouse SatCom received funding from the European Space Agency to analyse and adapt NB-IoT radio algorithms for space and meet the growing demand for uninterrupted Machine to Machine (M2M) communication. 

As technical satellite-based specification developments continue, GateHouse SatCom will feed its network software knowledge back into 3GPP, providing a road map for future 3GPP 5G networks on the technical and commercial levels. 

Opening the world in high speed

The need for bringing satellite-based communication into the 5G standards has never been greater. Communication services use TNs that only reach 10% of the world’s surface, making coverage in the Arctic, the oceans, and other remote regions either expensive, unreliable, or near-impossible to achieve. 

GateHouse SatCom’s extensive contribution to standardising 3GPP’s 5G NB-IoT NTN specifications will create a new normal within the mobile network and the global communications industry, helping multiple industries offer services globally through seamless 5G connectivity, even in remote regions that typically experience limited network coverage. 

"Companies working in the oil, gas, maritime, and agriculture industries can really benefit from high-speed space-based connectivity. For example, maritime companies struggle with connectivity and visibility as container ships cross the ocean, causing an unreliable and unpredictable supply chain," said Robert van der Pool, Project Director at Gatehouse SatCom.

He continued: "We’re proud to say our NB-IoT contributions to 3GPP’s NTN specifications target these industries and aim to solve the challenges they currently face with limited TN coverage."

A collaborative network

The 3GPP is made up of over 700 individual members across multiple industries. Each member belongs to a specific Working Group responsible for standardising certain specifications. 

Through strategic and technical partnerships with 3GPP members belonging to TSG-RAN (TSG-Radio Network Access) and TSG-SA (TSG-Services and System Aspects) Working Groups, GateHouse SatCom is an essential part of a collaborative network. This network is comprised of network operators, infrastructure providers, chipset manufacturers, device manufacturers and other key players within the satellite and mobile industries. 

"Our primary focus is collaborating with TSG-RAN Working Groups responsible for enhancing specifications associated with the radio signalling and digital transfer control between NTN nodes and IoT devices. We’re also working within TSG-SA to develop frameworks for the overall NTN service architecture and service capabilities," said van der Pool.

By working closely with these Working Groups, GateHouse SatCom can reuse and enhance already existing specifications for Non-Terrestrial implementation to address current compatibility issues between TNs and NTNs.

"Terrestrial infrastructure is static, while Non-Terrestrial infrastructure is dynamic by moving satellite nodes. The position and availability of infrastructure components are constantly changing, their distance from user terminals can cause timing issues, and their velocity can result in the doppler effect", explained van der Pool.

"We’re addressing these challenges to enable faster, more secure connectivity and create a better environment for TN and NTN compatibility through Release 17 and future 3GPP Releases," he continued.

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