Researchers at the University of Surrey have made significant progress in delivering high-speed internet access to remote areas through a constellation of satellites operated by European satellite company Eutelsat Group. In a partnership project supported by the UK Space Agency, the team demonstrated seamless switching between ground-based mobile devices using 5G connectivity and the satellite system with 5G quality of service.
The tests conducted by the engineers included high-speed video conferencing, gaming, and web browsing, all of which showed minimal delays or glitches. This was made possible by the LEO (low Earth orbit) network consisting of almost 600 satellites and the University of Surrey’s 6G/5G Innovation Center testbed.
The successful 5G pilot tests have shown that it is feasible to use satellites in low Earth orbit for 5G backhaul, bringing the world a step closer to increased internet access for more people. Professor Barry Evans, a satellite communications expert from the University of Surrey, expressed excitement about the lack of degradation in connection quality when using the 5G connection enabled by the satellite constellation.
Rahim Tafazolli, the Director of the Institute for Communication Systems at the University of Surrey, praised the achievement and highlighted the potential of the UK in bridging the digital divide and convergence of space and terrestrial networks.
Massimiliano Ladovaz, the Group Chief Operations Officer at Eutelsat, emphasized the potential of low Earth orbit services in providing connectivity to mobile users in rural and remote areas. Eutelsat plans to activate global coverage later this year, expanding access to connectivity worldwide.
The cooperation between the University of Surrey, Eutelsat Group, and the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Sunrise Partnership Project was commended by Javier Benedicto, the Acting Director of Connectivity and Secure Communications at ESA. Benedicto emphasized ESA’s role in fostering innovation in 5G connectivity and its commitment to bringing innovative technologies to the telecommunications satellite market.
Harshbir Sangha, the Missions and Capabilities Delivery Director at the UK Space Agency, praised the successful connection between the low Earth orbit network and a 5G mobile network. Sangha highlighted the potential of this technology to improve connectivity and people’s lives, particularly in remote areas and emergency situations.
With this breakthrough, high-speed internet access via satellites is coming closer to becoming a reality for those living and travelling in remote areas, promising to deliver video streaming, gaming, and virtual and augmented-reality content.