The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) plans to incorporate satellites and other forms of non-terrestrial networks to enhance the 5th generation mobile networks. They are currently conducting a number of studies to see how satellites may help to provide better connectivity over mobile networks.

The standards body is currently working on two study items. The first study item, TR 38.811, shall study deployment situations and such other system parameters; while the second study item will evaluate RAN protocols and architecture. The conclusions of the study are expected to be revealed as a part of Release 16, scheduled for 2020.

Another study item is inspecting how best to provide services using integrated satellite based access. This study item will take under its purview the new and existing services, their configurations, and their maintenance requirements; and also regulatory issues while switching from satellite to terrestrial networks.

The inspiration to inspect the utility of satellites in providing connectivity has come from SpaceX and OneWeb’s plan to deploy low Earth orbit satellite networks for providing broadband internet access. The move has been effectively backed by the increased participation of its industrial shareholders.

The 5G connectivity is expected to provide services in under and un-served areas, thus widening the spectrum of areas with available services. It shall also be a more reliable network. The new 5G network is expected to cover from 600-700MHz bands to millimeter wave portions of the spectrum, at 50 GHz.