From the 6G technology conference to see the development of heaven and earth integration industry

2024-05-08


With the decreasing cost of satellites, satellite Internet has become a hot topic of new infrastructure, but its performance, cost and management are still important issues worth exploring by academia and industry

Satellite costs continue to fall, boosting the industry heat. In the case of high-orbit high-throughput stars, after a long period of development, the capacity has been greatly increased (Viasat3 has achieved 1Tbps capacity), and the cost has continued to fall (currently reaching $3.50 /Gbps). At present, the domestic low-orbit satellite companies represented by Shanghai Yuanxin are actively laying out, including fully automated production lines, laser communication/white box and other new technology research, beamforming related chip design, etc., in order to provide more intelligent and rich satellite commercial services. The collection of geography, maritime, environmental, hydrological, vehicle networking, aviation and other kinds of rich mass data.

 

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Figure 1. Cost change of satellite communications

Source: Professor Zhili Sun, University of Surrey, "Future visions for Satellite systems in 5G/6G and beyond"

The development of satellite Internet faces problems such as performance evaluation, cost and management. At the same time, the global low-orbit satellites continue to be launched, and the scale of the on-orbit constellation continues to expand, which brings about problems related to performance evaluation, cost and management. In terms of performance, Professor Li Jiandong of Xidian University proposed that indicators such as the number of satellites covered per unit area, service density, and capacity are the focus of attention. In terms of cost, the current service fee for low-orbit satellite users is about 6 times that of 5G, and costs can be reduced in the future through the selection of inter-satellite links and the combination of low-medium orbit. In addition, in terms of management, the experts agreed that a series of challenges such as frequency interference, space collision, and space routing can be addressed through the introduction of artificial intelligence.

 

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Removing redundant inter-satellite links (ISL) in an asymmetric 2D-Torus topology can reduce costs

Source: XiDIAN University Professor Li Jiandong, Evaluation and Design of Mega Satellite Constellations

Mobile phone direct connection is an important symbol of the integration of air and earth, is a powerful means to expand the new space of information consumption, 2024 will enter the competition period, the future will further drive 6G star-ground integration. In 2022, the industry and academia paid attention to the combination of satellites and ground gateway stations, and announced the start of research on mobile phones directly connected to satellites. In 2023, various kinds of technical verification were launched, and in the same year, China's Tiantong No. 1 mobile phone direct satellite service was the first commercial landing in the world. In 2024, Starlink began to provide SMS services with direct connection to mobile phones, and AST began to provide intermittent connection services. China Mobile began to send stars to verify the relevant standards of NTN. According to TrendForce, the global NTN market is expected to reach $8.8 billion in 2026. It can be seen that in the future, NTN services (such as direct connection of mobile phones, etc.) will drive the continuous development of 6G in the direction of star-ground integration. In order to achieve more flexible network coverage and performance in the future, it is necessary to continue to pay attention to the evolution of network architecture, air transmission, frequency sharing and resource management.

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Figure 3 Global NTN market forecast

Sky stratospheric communication under the optimization of technology, or for 6G to provide more abundant air communication solutions

NTT DOCOMO of Japan introduced Stratospheric Communications (HAPS) with low cost, low latency and simple management. In terms of cost, taking Japan as an example, compared with low-orbit satellites, large-scale constellation networking is required to achieve global coverage, and HIBS is used to cover only 50 high-altitude platforms to achieve global access. In terms of delay, the altitude of the high-altitude platform is 20Km from the ground, which is nearly 1/25 of the altitude of the low-orbit satellite, and has lower delay and higher service experience. In terms of network architecture, HAPS is relatively static on the ground, and the coverage radius is large (about 50Km), and the requirements for mobility management are not high.

Although the concept of stratospheric communication has been around for nearly 20 years, there have been three major challenges in the development of HAPS: first, how to achieve the design of long-distance air interfaces; The second is how to share the frequency efficiently with the ground network; Third, how to improve connectivity. With the introduction of asymmetric DFT, virtual aperture technology and other technologies, HAPS coverage has been increased from 5 km to 50km, and target resolution has been increased from 500m to 300m. HAPS is now on the cusp of commercial availability, with Japan's Space Compass and France's Airbus both planning to launch HIBS commercial services around 2025.

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Figure 4 HAPS performance versus LEO and GEO

Source: DOCOMO (Beijing) Communication Technology Research Center Chen LAN

Star-ground integration is the inevitable trend of 6G development, NTN has become the focus of heaven and earth integrated network architecture, and communication technology and components need to be overcome

The experts at the meeting basically agreed that the future integration of stars and Earth is an inevitable trend. Satellite services gradually from TV broadcasting to 4G/5G mobile communication, how to achieve the consistency of ground and satellite service experience has become the focus of the industry's thinking, architecture and technology is the premise of the integration of heaven and earth landing commercial.

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Figure 5 Satellite communication services and terrestrial communication services are in line

Source: Professor Zhili Sun, University of Surrey, "Future visions for Satellite systems in 5G/6G and beyond"

According to the white paper "Exploration and Practice of Heaven and Earth Integration Technology" released simultaneously at the 6G conference, in terms of architecture, 5G NTN technology based on 3GPP is placed on high hopes. In particular, the regeneration-mode network architecture will reduce latency on the control plane/data plane by deploying NG-RAN (+5GC) on the satellite, and provide low-latency services and spectral efficiency improvements on service and feeder links in areas where NTN gateways are not deployed.

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Figure 6 Network architecture of regenerative mode

Source: Future Mobile Communication Forum "Space and Earth Integration Technology Exploration and Practice"

In terms of technology, basic communication technology and special equipment need to be further studied. The high relative motion speed between earth and earth terminals will bring transmission delay and Doppler offset, and long-distance communication will also cause offset and other problems. It is necessary to strengthen the research on basic communication technologies such as air interface synchronization, timing management, beam management and mobility. In addition, dedicated phased array antennas, transponders, inter-satellite links, terminals, satellite-borne wireless equipment, satellite-borne core network equipment, etc. supporting satellite Internet also need to be further developed in emerging scenarios such as low orbit and direct connection of mobile phones.

outlook

According to GSMA data, the current global terrestrial mobile network coverage of 69% of the population, surface coverage is less than 10%, 80% of the world's land, 95% of the ocean has not been covered. The ground network, combined with the wide coverage advantages of satellite communications, will continue to expand application scenarios, of which mobile phone direct connection to satellites, the Internet of things, the Internet of vehicles, shipping, aviation, etc., will become the practical scenario of the earth and earth in the future, and the domestic market space is expected to reach nearly 100 billion.

The author of this article

Han Lin

Institute for Strategic Development

Deputy chief analyst

Master, working in China Academy of Telecommunication Research, has long been engaged in the integration of heaven and earth, cloud network integration related technologies and industry research, including network cloud, network opening.

Zou Zhao

Institute for Strategic Development

Secondary analyst

Master degree, working in China Academy of Telecommunication Research, engaged in communications industry research, focusing on artificial intelligence and security strategy research.

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