1. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
Fast data transfer, low latency
Data transfer speeds up to 20 Gbps and latency as low as 1 millisecond
Use cases: High bandwidth applications, for example, video streaming and virtual reality.
2. Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC)
Low latency, high reliability
Latency as low as 1 millisecond and reliability of up to 99.999%
Use cases: Mission-critical applications such as autonomous vehicles.
3. Massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC)
Low power, low bandwidth
Designed to support up to 1 million devices per square kilometre
Use cases: Applications with a high volume number of devices. For example, automated supply chain management, infrastructure for smart cities.
What’s more, Release 16 didn’t account for mobility issues. This is more applicable to LEO satellites as these networks create a mesh of satellites around the globe and pass data as required between satellites and various ground stations. Particularly in the case of asset tracking applications where assets are moving, mobility and thus handing data from one satellite to another, becomes more important.
While Release 16 defines the interfaces between the UE and the core network, it does not provide detailed guidance on how to handle handovers between terrestrial and satellite networks. This can result in disruptions to the user experience as the UE moves between different network environments.
Ultimately Release 16 highlighted the importance of collaboration. Just one great example formed following Release 16 is that between Inmarsat and MediaTek in late 2020.
In the case of satellites, it’s not quite as simple as changing a SIM or updating firmware over the air. Satellites are largely programmed prior to launch. In most cases it would mean launching additional satellites within a constellation to add the technology required to support these interoperability features.
If for example, satellite operators had incorporated 2G or 3G network technology, both of which are now in the process of sunsetting, those additional features would be becoming redundant. In short, there are benefits to maintaining proprietary technology and this is how many of the longer standing satellite operators have conducted business.
Currently many of the in-built phone functions depend on 5G NTN technology. However, despite the noise the reality of integration is slow. Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon X75 chipsets, leveraging Iridium’s satellite network are due for sampling in Q2 of 2023 (now), with expected select shipping estimated for Q3 and 4. Other companies, including Apple have demoable tech which incorporates NTN using Qualcomm X65 chipsets but this is limited to one usable band – n53.
In short, while advances are exciting and once this tech does land it’s expected to be very disruptive, we are still very much in the early stages of development. So the exact role of satellites within 5G architecture and Industry 4.0 more generally is unclear.
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