The technical challenges that need to be addressed for the realisation of cost effective “plug and play” satcom solutions for 5G are:
- Virtualisation of satcom network functions to ensure compatibility with the 5G Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) architecture;
- Allowing cellular network management system to control satcoms’ radio resources and service;
- Developing link aggregation scheme for small cell connectivity mitigating Quality of Service (QoS) and latency imbalance between satellite and cellular access;
- Leveraging 5G features/technologies in satcom;
- Optimising/harmonising key management and authentication methods between cellular and satellite access technologies;
- Optimal integration of the multicast benefits in 5G services for both content delivery and Virtualised Network Function (VNF) distribution.
To rise to these challenges, the SaT5G project addresses six Research Pillars (RPs) and three horizontals as shown in the figure (above/below). The horizontals address global issues cutting across the whole project whilst the RPs have been selected to address the deeper research enablers relating to the identified challenges and needed to flow into prototypes to be used in the validations and demonstrations. A key contribution in SaT5G is the incorporation of the integrated testbed that will validate and demonstrate the mature SaT5G solutions. The RPs chosen along with the specific need they fulfill:
Research Pillar I “Implementing 5G SDN and NFV in Satellite Networks” will provide the virtualisation of the satellite functional components that will allow the integration of satellite and mobile network elements and support satellite system fit in the 5G environment.
Target Output: Virtualised satellite terminal functions developed for integration into the demo.
Research Pillar II “Integrated Network Management and Orchestration” will allow the orchestration and manage end-to-end the integrated network slices involving satellite and mobile.
Target Output: Management and orchestration functionality for integration into the demo.
Research Pillar III “Multilink and Heterogeneous Transport” will improve the user Quality of Experience (QoE) by intelligently delivering traffic across the satellite and terrestrial components of the network.
Target Output: Multilink functionality for integration into the demo.
Research Pillar IV “Harmonisation of Satcom with 5G Control and User Plane” is needed to include in satellite communications the 3GPP layer 2 and higher protocol layer and possibly also the physical layer.
Target Output: A software implementation of adaptation layers to run 3GPP layer 2 and higher layer protocols on top of Satellite Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) physical layer with lab test validation of a pre-standard 5G stack in emulated satellite channel conditions.
Research Pillar V “Extending 5G Security to Satellites” will validate that the 5G network security features will operate seamlessly over the satellite elements.
Target Output: Lab emulation and validation of the extended security features.
Research Pillar VI “Caching and Multicast for Optimised Content and NFV Distribution” will exploit the additional satcom over mobile cells to more efficiently deliver content to the user.
Target Output: An integrated Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) function with caching and multicast for integration into the demo.
The SaT5G horizontals selected are:
- Business and Operations: We will show in SaT5G that by integration of satcom, new business opportunities are created to engage major stakeholders. We will propose new business models including the new value chains and diverse actors as well as show how they will come together to operate such a system. Satcom will expand the opportunity for mobile operators by enabling fast roll out of services in a way that has not been possible for 3/4G.
- Validation and Demos: In SaT5G we will develop the key interfaces that allow the integration of the virtualised satellite components into terrestrial 5G testbeds as well as satellite gateways and terminals with virtualised functions and components for integration in the testbeds. Other elements such as the management and orchestrator component and the MEC component for use in caching and multicast will similarly be developed for integration in the testbeds. SaT5G will integrate satellite links (both emulated and real) into the testbeds. Following on from this, we will then demonstrate the integrated satellite communications in 5G against the use cases and scenarios defined for SaT5G.
- Standardisation: Standardisation is the key to future equipment interworking and to reduce the eventual costs of equipment as it opens up manufacturing scalability. 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has established a pathway to 5G standardisation on which SaT5G will build on. The inclusion of the satellite into 3GPP and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) standards is a major element of the project and partners are committed to contributing and influencing meetings.