Minimize Space for 5G & 6G

Space for 5G & 6G Technology Introduction

Development status    Field Tests     References


5G and 6G are the next two generations of cellular connectivity and the next big leap forward for terrestrial and satellite telecommunications. They will allow us to be connected to everything, everywhere, at any time and nearly any speed. Satellites and space technologies are instrumental to build and operate such future 5G and 6G networks. They offer unique advantages in terms of security, resilience, coverage, and mobility; they remain the only way to make 5G and 6G available everywhere, accessible to enterprises and citizens all across Europe. ESA`s strategic programme line Space for 5G & 6G demonstrates the essential nature of satellites for 5G and 6G. It sets the standards and frameworks for hybrid and downstream interoperability, as well as the base for integrating terrestrial networks with satellites. 1)

The 5G/6G Hub – based at ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) at Harwell in the UK – is a place for collaboration, where start-ups, SMEs and Industry can develop products and services using state-of-the-art 5G integrated terrestrial-satellite equipment. The facility will be a catalyst for new innovative applications that benefit society and the environment in the context of the future 5G-based economy. The 5G/6G Hub is a center of excellence where the immense potential of converged satellite and terrestrial telecommunications networks will be explored, for the benefit of Europe and beyond.

Figure 1: The Hub – based at ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications at Harwell in the UK – is a place for collaboration, where industry will take advantage of the immense potential of converged satellite and terrestrial communications networks to create innovative applications that benefit society and the environment (video credit: ESA)

Development status

• June 21, 2022: Film fans, gamers and future metaverse users will be able to experience high-quality videos, games and extended reality environments live and uninterrupted from anywhere, as satellites link up with terrestrial-based next-generation 5G and 6G connectivity. 2)

- Today ESA signed an agreement to work with the European Broadcast Union (EBU) – an alliance of public service media organisations – that will enable Europe to gain a lead in media content delivery as well as maintaining its technical autonomy.

- Next-generation 5G and 6G technology will provide fast and high-volume data connectivity to support the digital transformation of society, enabling new applications and services.

- The media industry has been quick to embrace 5G technologies, which offer ultra-high-quality videos as well as extra fast games with very low lag times.

- Telecommunications satellites will play a crucial role in enabling the seamless and ubiquitous connectivity on which 5G and 6G networks rely.

- Today’s agreement – called 5G Emerge – is a partnership between ESA and the European Broadcast Union plus 20 companies from Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

- Under the agreement, the partners will define, develop and validate an integrated satellite and terrestrial system based on open standards to efficiently deliver high-quality content distribution services. The system will leverage on the structural advantages of satellite-base infrastructures combined with the flexibility of 5G and beyond 5G technologies to reach anyone and anywhere.

- The agreement was signed between Antonio Arcidiacono, Director of Technology and Innovation at the European Broadcast Union, Jean-Pierre Choffray of satellite operator SES, Matteo Ainardi of consultants Arthur D. Little and Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA.

- Antonio Arcidiacono said: “Together we will build a solution that combines all satellite and terrestrial IP-based network infrastructures, guaranteeing sustainability and quality of service. It also guarantees that the network will cover 100% of the population, no matter where they are located. This is a critical requirement for public service media organisations.”

- Elodie Viau said: “It is crucial for Europe to protect and enhance its autonomy when it comes to media and communications infrastructure. The 5G-Emerge project will support the digital transformation of European society, enabling new applications and services.”


Figure 2: ESA boosts the space-enabled 5G media market (image credit: Arthur D. Little)

• June 8, 2022: Engineers have connected Japan and Europe via space-enabled next-generation 5G telecommunication links. It is the first time that such an intercontinental connection has been established between Europe and Japan. 3)

- Next-generation 5G technology is poised to provide fast and high-volume data connectivity to fuel the digital transformation of society. When people and objects are travelling internationally on aircraft or ships, telecommunications satellites will play a crucial role in keeping them connected. International connectivity – for example, between a localised 5G network in a company’s head office and those in its subsidiary offices around the globe – could also use satellites for communication.

- Being able to switch smoothly between terrestrial 5G connections and satellites is essential to ensure that everything and everyone stays connected wherever they go.

- Engineers in Japan collaborated with their counterparts in Europe to test several business scenarios that will demand such seamless transitions.

- First they tested whether it was possible to send high-definition broadcast quality 4k video via space to simulate the experience of passengers on board an aircraft. The long distance between Japan and Europe introduces a time lag that makes connection more challenging than it would be over shorter distances.

- They found that even under the influence of such delays, it was possible to send the video from Japan to a data centre in Europe seamlessly using satellite.

- The engineers then tested whether they could send internet-of-things data – such as that generated by sensors operating on an offshore oil platform, for example – via satellite from Japan to Europe. Again, the test was successful.

- Finally they measured the network quality of each segment of each of the transmissions and validated the successful integration between the terrestrial 5G networks and the satellite. In addition, they demonstrated the system’s capability to support the service requirements, proving that intercontinental 5G satellite and terrestrial networks represent a significant option for campus networks and for highly distributed network deployments.

- The experiments took place in January and February 2022.


Figure 3: The Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission takes us over the Japanese archipelago – a string of islands that extends about 3000 km into the western Pacific Ocean. While the archipelago is made up of over 6000 islands, this image focuses on Japan's four main islands. Running from north to south, Hokkaido is visible in the top right corner, Honshu is the long island stretching in a northeast–southwest arc, Shikoku can be seen just beneath the lower part of Honshu, and Kyushu is at the bottom. - Honshu’s land mass comprises approximately four-fifths of Japan’s total area. Honshu’s main urban areas of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka are clearly visible in the image. The large grey area in the east of the island, near the coast, is Tokyo, while the smaller areas depicted in grey are the areas around Nagoya and Osaka. - Honshu is also home to the country’s largest mountain, Mount Fuji. A volcano that has been dormant since it erupted in 1707, Mount Fuji is around 100 km southwest of Tokyo and its snow covered summit can be seen as a small white dot. - The Sea of Japan, also referred to as the East Sea, (visible to the west of the archipelago) separates the country from the east coast of Asia. The turquoise waters surrounding the island of Hokkaido can be seen at the top of the image, while the waters in the right of the image have a silvery hue because of sunglint – an optical effect caused by the mirror-like reflection of sunlight from the water surface back to the satellite sensor. (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

- The tests form part of an ongoing agreement between ESA and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan to work together on 5G satellite communications for the benefit of European and Japanese citizens and industries.


Figure 4: System configuration of the testbed in the Japan-Europe joint experiment (image credit: NICT)

- Other members of the collaboration include: Eurescom, a telecommunications research and development organisation based in Heidelberg, Germany; the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS) in Berlin, Germany; the Japan Radio Company (JRC), a manufacturer and seller of radio communication equipment based in Tokyo, Japan; Japanese satellite operator and broadcaster SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation; and the Nakao Research Laboratory at the University of Tokyo.

- Hiroaki Harai, Director General of the Network Research Institute at NICT, said: “We are proud to be part of this successful international collaboration between Japan and Europe. By utilizing the result of this 5G satellite experiment, we believe that we will lead to the development of communications and networking technology to connect satellites, high-altitude platform systems, and drones. The three-dimensional network that connects multiple layers from the terrestrial to the ocean, air, and space will enable communication to all areas and will realise diverse communications.”

- David Kennedy, director of Eurescom, said: “Eurescom believes in the convergence of satellite and terrestrial communication into a seamless 5G infrastructure and has supported projects and initiatives working to enable this convergence since 5G was conceived. We are proud to be part of this successful collaborative endeavour between Europe and Japan, and we look forward to further experiments to enhance the reach, capabilities and ubiquity of 5G.”

- Thomas Magedanz, director of the software-based networks business unit at Fraunhofer FOKUS, said: “Seeing is believing! Only through practical tests enabling the hands-on generation of expertise by technology trials can confidence in the newest 5G technologies be achieved. This is just the start on the journey towards 6G, where an even closer convergence of network technologies is envisaged, while we are witnessing the rapid rise of industry campus networks demanding connectivity.”

- Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “I am proud to be part of the first collaborative experimentation with Japanese stakeholders in which a terrestrial 5G signal was complemented by a satellite connection over such a long distance – and to work in international collaboration with industry and the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology. Next-generation communications technologies are crucial to keeping everyone and everything connected at all times.”

- ESA is supporting the experiments through its Space for 5G/6G strategic programme line, which is part of the agency’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES), and the SATis5 project.

- A part of this research result was obtained from the commissioned research “Research and Development of Satellite-Terrestrial Integration Technology in Beyond 5G” by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Japan.

• November 2020: SATis5 Project. The work presented is part of the ESA ARTES Advanced Technology project “SATis5: Demonstrator for Satellite Terrestrial Integration in the 5G Context”, ESA Contract No. 4000120663/17/NL/CLP. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Satellite is 5G SATis5 Whitepaper 4)

Field Tests for 5G (5th Generation) positioning service introduction in Europe

In September 2019, a pair of testbed vehicles went out on the road in Germany to simulate the way we are all likely to be using 5G positioning services in the future. The field test focused on assessing the performance of highly-precise ‘hybrid’ satellite/terrestrial positioning for autonomous vehicles, drones, smart cities and IoT (Internet of Things). 5)


Figure 5: This pair of testbed vehicles went out on the road in Germany to simulate the way we are all likely to be using 5G positioning services in the future (image credit: DLR/GMV)

The two vehicles were driven for a week around Munich and the surrounding area in a variety of environments, from the open sky terrain surrounding the German Aerospace Center DLR’s site in Oberpfaffenhofen to the deep urban canyons of the city’s dense Maxvorstadt district.

As they drove they combined a broad range of on-board systems – including multi-constellation satellite navigation (combining Europe’s Galileo, the US GPS (Global Positioning System), the Russian Glonass and the Chinese BeiDou systems), incorporating localized high-accuracy correction, and Long-Term Evolution 4G and UWB (Ultra-Wide Band) terrestrial wireless broadband communication – to measure their positions and share them with one another, performing ongoing vehicle-to-vehicle ranging to simulate future 5G operating standards.

Figure 6: Space's part in the 5G revolution. Everybody is talking about 5G, the new generation of wireless communication. We are at the start of a revolution in connectivity for everything, everywhere, at all times. So what has space got to do with it? Why do we need satellites to ensure businesses and citizens can benefit smoothly from 5G? (video credit: ESA, Published on 6 March 2019)

The coming of the next generation of mobile phone networks, called 5G, promises much faster, more stable connectivity based on higher bandwidths and frequencies – but the ability to download a full movie in a matter of seconds is only the start. These increased capabilities will also open up a new range of services, many of them based around localization.

From smart traffic management to asset tracking to personalized drone-based delivery, our receivers’ ability to know where they are and share those positions with the wider network will be vital.


Figure 7: Antennas on vehicle roof. Close-up view of Car A with GNSS and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) antennas (image credit: DLR/GMV)

“The first step required is understanding what the upcoming disruptive applications are, and to identify the potential requirements associated with them.” says Riccardo de Gaudenzi, heading ESA’s Electrical Department in its Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality.

“For these use cases, positioning and timing are key elements. Therefore Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) aspects, provided via Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like Galileo, the terrestrial communication infrastructure and hybridization of technologies, are extremely important.”

Today we rely largely on satellite navigation to determine where we are. But our smartphones quietly blend satnav with other data sources to sharpen the accuracy of their results. That is why, for example, when you turn off your phone’s WiFi receiver your smartphone will warn you its mapping will become less accurate – because it is also using WiFi maps as a reference source.


Figure 8: GNSS equipment aboard vehicles. The testbed vehicles combined a broad range of on-board systems – including multi-constellation satellite navigation (combining Europe’s Galileo, the US GPS, Russian Glonass and Chinese Beidou), incorporating localized high-accuracy correction (image credit: DLR/GMV)

With 5G this trend of ‘hybrid positioning’ will accelerate. Multiple GNSS constellation will be employed together to increase accuracy, along with localized correction systems. In addition the 5G cell network will provide additional corrections to enhance the GNSS localization accuracy and to complement GNSS when satellites are not visible. This 5G ‘New Radio’ positioning accuracy will be enhanced by using steerable antennas on both the base station and the user terminal.

And because positioning performance will have to remain at the same high standard as user receivers move around – whether they be people, cars, shared bikes or drones – additional positioning solutions will also be employed, such as inertial sensors or device-to-device relative positioning.

Miguel Manteiga Bautista, Head of ESA’s GNSS Evolution and Strategy Division in the Agency’s Directorate of Navigation explains: “For the hybrid positioning field-tests, ESA and its partners set up a collaboration with Deutsche Telecom for use of its 4G network in Munich including relevant information for positioning, and NovAtel, who provided state-of-the-art GNSS equipment and correction services, such as the satellite-based TerraStar-X.”


Figure 9: Testbed vehicle equipment. The testbed vehicles combined a broad range of on-board systems – including multi-constellation satellite navigation (combining Europe’s Galileo, the US GPS, Russian Glonass and Chinese Beidou), incorporating localized high-accuracy correction, and Long-Term Evolution 4G and Ultra-Wide Band terrestrial wireless broadband communication – to measure their positions and share them with one another, performing ongoing vehicle-to-vehicle ranging to simulate future 5G operating standards (image credit: DLR/GMV)

5G GNSS Task Force

ESA oversaw this initial field test campaign as part of its 5G GNSS Task Force, coordinated with the European Commission and the European GNSS Agency, through the Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation in Satellite Navigation. It was undertaken by DLR and the GMV company, with contributions by engineers from NovAtel, u-blox and Deutsche Telekom as well as ESA.

In 2016 ESA’s European GNSS Evolution Program took the initiative to shape the support of high-accuracy positioning services in 4G and 5G networks, to contribute to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, 3GPP, worldwide standardization effort.


Figure 10: 3GPP standardization. Areas where ESA is contributing to 3GPP standardization efforts (image credit: ESA)

The next phase of this project, called GNSS Integration into 5G wireless networks or GINTO5G, involves thorough processing of all the data gathered during the field test campaign, leading into additional field experiments.

1) ”Space for 5G & 6G,” ESA ARTES 4.0 Programme,” URL:

2) ”ESA boosts the satellite-enabled 5G media market,” ESA Applications, 21 June 2022, URL:

3) ”Space-enabled 5G links Japan and Europe,” ESA Applications, 8 June 2022, URL:

4) Marius Corici (Fraunhofer FOKUS), Konstantinos Liolis, Christos Politis, Alexander Geurtz (SES), Joe Cahill, Shane Bunyan (ST Engineering iDirect), Thomas Schlichter (Fraunhofer IIS), Florian Völk (Bundeswehr University Munich), Adam Kapovits (Eurescom GmbH), ”SATis5 Whitepaper,” ESA, November 2020, URL:

5) ”ESA leads drive into our 5G positioning future,” ESA Navigation, 01 October 2019, 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 (

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