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SATis5 (Satellite-Terrestrial Integration in the 5G Context) Demonstrator

The SATis5 testbed will implement, deploy and evaluate an integrated satellite-terrestrial 5G network, showcasing the benefits of the satellite integration with the terrestrial infrastructures in order to increase the trust in the newly developed 5G technologies and to foster their adoption. The SATis5 testbed will also support the standardization initiatives of the satellite community especially towards 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) by providing practical validations. 1)

The 3GPP caters to a large majority of the telecommunications networks in the world. It is the standard body behind UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), which is the 3G upgrade of GSM (Global System for Mobile) communication. Most cellular networks on the planet are based on GSM.

The SATis5 testbed is built under the ESA ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) activity "SATis5: Demonstrator for Satellite Terrestrial Integration in the 5G Context" (ESA Contract No. 4000120663/17/NL/CLP), funded by the European Space Agency and it is expected to be ready for live demonstrations in September 2018.

The 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP) is a joint initiative between the European Commission and European ICT (Information and Communication Technology) industry (ICT manufacturers, telecommunications operators, service providers, SMEs and researcher Institutions). — Partners in this endeavor are: Eurescom (Heidelberg), Fraunhofer FOKUS (Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems), Fraunhofer IIS (Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits), Newtec (Sint-Niklaas, Belgium), SES S. A. (Luxemburg), TU Berlin, Universität der Bundeswehr.


Figure 1: SATis5 testbed system architecture (image credit: ESA, ARTES)

SATis5 objectives: 2)

1) Provides a comprehensive testbed showcasing major technology progress and demonstrating the benefits of satellite technology for the main 5G use cases. The testbed includes live, over the air GEO and MEO satellite connectivity in addition to laboratory emulations and simulations and uses a federation of terrestrial locations. The testbed is an open federation of resources that can incorporate additional locations in the future for addressing new deployment situations and use cases;

2) Highlights the advantages of satellite technology in a range of situations and thus feeds into a roadmap and vision, and supports satellite stakeholders to position themselves in the 5G context;

3) Creates a very substantial impact on the telecommunications industry going beyond the satellite industry. The activity is instrumental and drives the full integration of satellite in 5G through open and standard solutions, facilitated primarily through 3GPP standardization.


The main challenge addressed in the SATis5 project is the satellite-terrestrial network integration within the 5G ecosystem. The activity tackles the following major technical challenges concerning the various technology enablers:

- Distribution of orchestration across the specific communication environment;

- Distribution of the control plane across the specific communication environment;

- Slice Management and Service Function Chain Orchestration through the integration with NFV-MANO(Network Functions Virtualization Management and Orchestration);

- Security enforcement and isolation of the multiple slices;

- Reduction of state management for flexible elasticity and migration;

- VNF (Virtual Network Function)-programmability and customization to address the specific needs of the applications;

- End-to-end management and interworking across multiple carriers including: WAN Infrastructure Manager (WIM); customer edge router (in the Access Network); provider edge router (between Access Network and Core Network); and the integration with legacy and 3rd party services;

- Security-by-design: integrated security solution within the architecture, customizable to the requirements of the applications;

- Orchestration of the edge intelligence and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) node, functional split and synchronization with central nodes;

- New Radio (NR) integration with satellite, convergent integration of existing technologies;

- Extension of device management for network assisted slice selection in a multi-slice environment.


The demonstrator showcases for the first time in a live environment the benefits of using satellite technology in 5G enabling a better understanding of the role that satellite could have in 5G systems.

Following a modular architecture, the testbed is designed to be able to incorporate additional remote testbeds within a large scale federation, next to the proposed four nodes, through this being able to naturally extend towards other locations.

Through the harmonization of SatCom with 5G network features such as virtualization, network slicing, control/user plane protocols, broadcast/multicast, SATis5 serves and enables the following new business models:

• Reducing initial CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) investment to enter new markets, through very small and dynamic infrastructure deployments;

• Opening up more backhaul and direct connectivity options in remote areas and towards highly distributed environments;

• Secure and reliable deployments of highly distributed enterprise networks;

• Support for on-demand network capacity increase in dense communication areas.

• Reducing on-going OPEX (Operating Expenses) costs in remote environments;

• Delivering lower costs per subscriber by targeting small concentrated pockets of users;

• Enabling new ecosystems where the operator no longer needs to own and run the entire RAN (Radio Access Network).

SATis5 also brings key benefits for the 5G mobile industry:

• Profitable investment for mobile industry to deploy 5G backhaul to underserved areas;

• Take up of 5G services in low ARPU (Average Revenue Per Unit) markets much faster than previous generations;

• Seamless accessibility for 5G vertical markets in rural and remote regions;

• Rapid deployment of highly distributed and secure sparse enterprise networks addressing 5G verticals with global connectivity coverage requirements;

• Rapid secure and resilient deployment for emergency scenarios;

• Delivery of very rich multimedia video content at low cost;

• Rapid "plug and play" new service creation potential in previously difficult geographies.


The testbed provides a full end-to-end technology integration addressing the 5G communication environment including satellite and terrestrial components. Key technologies include:

• Distributed NFV orchestration across the environment;

• Support for a distributed, edge oriented 5G control plane across the environment;

• Diverse, dynamic data path support with local offload, multicast and efficient small messages distribution;

• Extension of device management for slice-selection;

• Support for a secure and isolated multi-slice environment using service function chaining extensions;

• End-to-end network management across a multi-carrier environment;

• Slice programmability and customization to applications;

• Integration with legacy and 3rd party services;

• Integration of edge intelligence and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) node, functional split and synchronization with central nodes;

• New Radio (NR) integration with satellite, convergent integration of existing technologies;


Figure 2: Direct connectivity to the SATis5 architecture (image credit: ESA, ARTES)


The SATis5 project has a 24-month duration, which is complemented by an additional 12-month testbed service phase. The testbed development consists of four major phases:

• In the first seven months, the testbed architecture is defined and specified, and a development and validation plan is established.

• In the following five months, a testbed design and validation plan is provided together with the initial testbed. This means that after the first year, a live testbed should be available.

• Phase three lasts six months, and includes the customization of the testbed with key technologies.

• The last six months are used for integration and demonstration of the new technologies.

Current status:

The project had its kick-off meeting on 4 October 2017, and it is in its initial phase, refining the requirements towards an integrated satellite 5G system.


Open5GCore – The Next Mobile Core Network Testbed Platform 3)

The Fraunhofer FOKUS Open5GCore toolkit is a worldwide first practical implementation of the 3GPP 5G core network. It mirrors in a prototype form the 3GPP Release 15 for the core network functionality and its integration with 5G New Radio (Standalone and Non-Standalone).

The Open5GCore aims at providing support and speeding-up research, by facilitating know-how transfer from Fraunhofer FOKUS towards partners. It serves as a consistent basis for 5G testbed deployments for trials and pilots as well as for the further development of new standard oriented functional features.

Open5GCore implements the new 5G components as standalone, independent of the previous 4G EPC (Evolved Packet Core ) functionality. Through this, Open5GCore enables a fast and targeted 5G innovation, hands-on fast implementation and realistic evaluation and demonstration of new concepts and use case opportunities.


Figure 3: Open5GCore represents a first 5G core network implementation addressing the needs of 5G testbeds for FOKUS and for partner activities (image credit: Fraunhofer FOKUS)

Open5GCore Rel. 4 is including a large level of newly implemented functions developed on top of an accelerated software platform:

• Integration with 5G New Radio: NSA [S1-MME, S1-U] and SA [N1, N2, N3]

• Implementing control-user plane split – PFCP [N4]

• First implementation of Service-Based Architecture Features [HTTP/2, OpenAPI, REST]

• Data path diversity supporting local offloading and backhaul control

• Maintaining backwards compatibility with LTE and NB-IoT [IDD and NIDD].

Open5GCore Rel. 4 integrates with 5G New Radio Stand-Alone (SA) and Non-Stand-Alone (NSA) prototypes and off-the-shelf LTE access networks enabling immediate demonstration of different features and applications and supporting the current need to have a genuine 5G Core Network in addition to the evolved EPC one.

Open5GCore runs on top of common hardware platforms and can be deployed with containers or virtual machines on top of a large number of virtualization environments. The required hardware for a testbed setup, highly depends on the expected capacity. Open5GCore scales from Raspberry PI to a complete rack of servers.

Open5GCore is highly customizable, enabling the deployment of instances addressing the needs of the specific use cases. The source code license option extends the offer with ultimate flexibility for easy customization and prototype developments.


With three edge locations in Betzdorf (Luxembourg), Berlin, Erlangen and a mobile/nomadic one aimed at demonstrations across Europe, the SATis5 testbed includes a set of state-of-the-art toolkits and prototypes for both the terrestrial and satellite networks starting from radio network prototypes, Fraunhofer's Open5GCore and Fraunhofer's OpenBaton next to the latest satellite modem technologies, and provides a comprehensive basis for customized network deployments for the specific use cases and demonstrations acting as a best-practice path finder for the 5G trialing phase.

SATis5 builds on the results of the successful ESA SATINET (Satcom Integration with LTE-based core Network emulator) project in which some components were already integrated in the 5G Ready Trial Platform of Fraunhofer FOKUS, indicating that a comprehensive end-to-end integration will provide the expected support for the 5G use cases as well as enabling the integration with other testbed infrastructures. Results available from other relevant EU and ESA projects will also incorporated in the SATis5 testbed.

For this first implementation of a distributed 5G environment supporting the federation with other European testbeds a new set of software components will be developed that are currently missing from the testbeds in Europe, such as the support to end-to-end orchestration across loosely coupled testbed areas, remote management of testbed locations, the security of the interconnection across diverse and unreliable backhauls and location-to-location optimized routing.


Figure 4: SATis5 testbed for satellite-terrestrial distributed 5G environment (image credit: ESA)



Space-enabled IoT (Internet of Things) shown in Berlin

November 2018: ESA's first live demonstration of 5G by satellite began last week, as an ingenious set-up of European space and ground nodes showed a crowd in Berlin how it can help connect devices in the much-lauded IoT (Internet of Things). The purpose of the exercise was to prove that space can deploy 5G services anywhere on Earth, no matter how isolated, congested or mobile the application. It encompassed two demonstrations of technology enablers for multi-sliced, 5G satellite-enabled edge nodes. 4) 5)

Figure 5: The Internet of Things describes a network of devices connecting and sharing information through 5G. ESA is supporting the development of the unified space-and-ground network your Internet of Things will need, by using satellites to extend the reach, security and reliability of terrestrial 5G networks (image credit: ESA)

The first concerned 5G connectivity ‘on the move' with a satcom-equipped van, showing how this could be used for applications such as eHealth, rapid emergency response and temporary deployments for public events.

SATis5 is a distributed live demonstration platform: fixed ‘hubs' of cutting-edge ESA-funded 5G routing equipment in Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg, a mobile node like a satcom-equipped van, and operator SES's fleet of geostationary and medium Earth orbiting satellites, together providing 5G satellite and cellular connectivity options.

The second test was content ‘edge delivery' through a fixed, stationary network extended by satellites. Both demonstrations were performed during Berlin 5G Week at Fraunhofer FOKUS using a distributed live demonstration platform called SATis5.


Figure 6: A SATis5 demonstration took place on 15 and 16 November 2018 at Fraunhofer FOKUS in Berlin. It showed data from five LTE sensors, representing active devices like a phone, wearable, or car, act out an IoT-style multimedia exchange, thanks to the SATis5 combined space-and-ground network routing the data to the Fraunhofer 5G Playground (image credit: ESA, M. Guta)

Participants watched as the SATis5 operators showed data from five sensors on a screen, representing active devices like your phone, a wearable, a car, or a fixed IoT sensor aggregator, all connect and exchange information as it was routed through the combined space-and-ground network to the Fraunhofer 5G Playground; a dedicated 5G testing infrastructure.


Figure 7: The SATis 5G testbed demonstration served as a proof-of-concept of how satellite connectivity can be integrated with the future 5G architecture (image credit: ESA, M. Guta)

5G is more than just the next generation of mobile services: it will not only be significantly faster than current data speeds, but will also be able to reliably connect people and devices, anytime and anywhere, with increased security.

A truly global, always-on network needs to reach every part of the world, however, which today's terrestrial means do not. For that, you need satellites. The help of space will for example be needed to link future IoT networks, as was demonstrated on this small scale in Berlin.

Satellites' coverage can massively increase the service area by extending terrestrial networks through portable nodes like a satcom-enabled van or providing backhaul connectivity: linking small local networks to the main fiber spine.

This kind of ad hoc and supplementary delivery of services has a wide range of applications, which is what the SATis5 testbed is designed to demonstrate.

Over the course of 2019, the testbed will simulate different scenarios in which satellites can deliver 5G, such as broadband connectivity in remote areas, massive machine-to-machine/IoT, communications on the move and offsetting high traffic.


Figure 8: Satellite for 5G infographic. The next generation of communication services – 5G – will rely on a harmonious integration of networks, driving a convergence of fixed and mobile services, including satcom services. ESA's Satellite for 5G (S45G) program aims promote the value-added benefits of space to 5G, by developing and demonstrating integrated satellite- and terrestrial-based 5G services, across various markets and use cases. ESA supports the technological and supply chain evolutions that are required to weave together terrestrial and space services, focusing on the transport sector (maritime, aviation and land), public safety, and media and broadcasting (image credit: ESA)

In disaster zones, for example, terrestrial networks are often bound to get damaged. Reliable, immediate connectivity is crucial to aid emergency response personnel in their efforts, and satellites can step in to provide it at short notice.

The more day-to-day uses can be found in relieving ground network congestion, or by serving areas that have poor terrestrial links, such as those that are remote, sparsely populated or dedicated to industry, like construction sites.

Today's systems can also get congested during times of unusually high demand – like at a festival or large sporting event, or when disaster strikes – but with the help of satcom-enabled 5G mobile nodes, the overloaded terrestrial links can be bypassed to provide users with the same speed and reactivity from their devices as they would normally.

For all cases, the testbed plans to show that an integrated satellite and ground network can complement each other to deliver more reach, reliability, capacity and security.

The SATis5 demonstration will continue running experiments until the end of 2019, after which the testbed will remain operational and could be made available to other ESA-funded demonstrations of satellite-enabled 5G services.


1) "ESA live testbed for satellite-terrestrial integration in the context of 5G," ESA, 25 October 2017, URL:

2) "SATis5 - Demonstrator for Satellite-Terrestrial Integration in the 5G Context," ESA ARTES, 13 February, 2018, URL:

3) "Open5GCore," URL:

4) "Space-enabled Internet of Things shown in Berlin," ESA, 21 November 2018, URL:

5) "Satellite for 5G Overview," ARTES, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (