5G’s low latency to be tapped for satellite communication

Technologies such as 5G, millimetre wave and next-gen channel emulation will disrupt the aerospace and defence (A&D) industries across the globe. India is no exception.

Earlier in the year the Union Cabinet announced its decision to open up the country’s space activities for the private sector’s participation. It is being initiated through a new space board called the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe).

The developments in commercial aerospace are becoming more applicable for military applications. A case in point is the 5G spectrum wave; its application will make the supply chain much more cutting edge. Frequency converting devices will be leveraged for better outcomes in military aircrafts.

Technologies like millimetre wave and radar are being tapped for electronic warfare and radar systems. Growth drivers are the increasing demand for smaller size objects along with parameter requirements like higher frequency and more bandwidth. “From 2017 to 2023, the market for the millimetre wave technology will grow by 35.2 per cent compounded annual growth rate,” said Scott Leithem, A/D IST services integration engineer, Keysight Technologies.

The business of space is finding newer and innovative applications. World over, scientists are researching sleek and speedy technologies for improving outputs. “One of the immediate outcomes is low-orbit satellites, which has created the demand for more spectrum width. Laser links are being explored for satellite links and higher frequency is also being researched for wider usage in space activities,” added Leithem.

The low latency of 5G can be leveraged in communication as there’s a market demand for smaller and sleeker mobile phones. In the case of satellite communication, 5G will come into play as cameras become much more compact and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will grow in demand.

It’s interesting to see the convergence of 5G and space communication. “The key building blocks of convergence include wideband, high-order modulation and flexible frequency conversion. The use of phased-array or electronically steerable antennas and the focus on converter tests are other factors,” said Joel Dunsmore, Research Fellow, Keysight Technologies.

SATCOM, or satellite communication, is gaining focus as satellite links are part of 5G and 6G wave in the form of mixed-use cases. SATCOM systems require two types of access: broadband access with fixed terminals and narrowband access with handset terminals.

Applications of channel emulators in the A&D space extend to tactical radios, which are mission critical device-to-device mesh networks as well as tactical links in between networks. “It finds usage in avionics and airborne radios and this includes civil avionics and airline applications, jet fighter communications and UAVs and other flying objects,” explained Jani Tolonen, product manager, channel emulators, Keysight Technologies. Aerospace applications can be seen in terms of satellite communications and space to ground communications. The use case of channel emulators corresponds to real-life scenarios where the radios are used within one field-testing event.

Within the A&D space, the wireless systems are changing, pointing to an increased system throughput that requires wider bandwidths. Wider bandwidths are now available on higher operating frequencies; more and more radios, nodes and access points are interconnected. All this has created a market need for next-generation channel emulation for A&D applications.

Hurdles in the wireless systems can be tackled through solutions like beamforming, which has the ability to deliver a high-quality signal to the receiver, which in turn improves the overall wireless communication. “Beamforming is introduced in all wireless communication, which includes cellular networks, satellite communications and wireless military communications. The MANET network testing system is increasing and is extending to the whole network level,” pointed out Tolonen. On its part, MANET – Mobile Ad hoc Networks – offers flexibility, scalability and also cuts down on cost as there’s no need to build any infrastructure for it. Wireless mobile nodes form the crux of MANET; the communication between these nodes doesn’t require a centralised authority.

In a nutshell, end-to-end satellite communication can become more feasible with cost-effective solutions. This should take into account the links that go through multiple satellites for enabling the operations from ground-to-satellite and back.

These insights were part of the Aerospace and Defence Track organised by Keysight World India. Innovate Next was the theme of the event held online last week.