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Creating opportunities while saving lives through 5G-NTN

The SATCOM + 5G anywhere - Phase II Catalyst builds on TM Forum’s Connectivity as a Service paradigm to offer composite telco and SATCOM offerings in a single marketplace, with a focus on serving the needs of disaster relief organizations and their partners

Alasdair Riggs
14 Jun 2024
Creating opportunities while saving lives through 5G-NTN

Creating opportunities while saving lives through 5G-NTN

Commercial context

Telecoms operators (telcos) and satellite communications providers (SATCOMs) are making major efforts to achieve convergence between 5G and satellite networks – the aim being 5G-NTN, which will help make low-latency connectivity universally available to businesses and consumers alike, regardless of location. The convergence between 5G and satellite has been heavily specified by 3GPP and ETSI, and a great deal of work has gone into network and device development. From the perspective of operations and business support systems (OSS/BSS) and network management, however, there is much yet to be done. Telcos and SATCOMs providers also lack a modern standards-compliant approach to packaging, selling and delivering composite products; specialist service integrations are complex, and heavily increase costs and time-to-market, making them generally prohibitive to businesses.

A key driver of the integration between satellite and 5G has been improving the ability of relief agencies such as the UN and Red Cross to remain connected during natural disasters, which may require a response outside terrestrial network coverage, or where those networks have been compromised by the disaster. SATCOM networks offer an excellent backup option in such scenarios, but require specialist equipment, making mass adoption prohibitive for now. The answer is to draw on the advantages of satellite connectivity through high-specification cellular equipment – i.e. drop-shipped private 5G connected to SATCOM networks.

The solution

Now in its second phase, the SATCOM + 5G Anywhere Catalyst, which won a 2024 Catalyst Award in the Outstanding Catalyst - Innovative & Futuristic andOutstanding Catalyst - Tech for Good categories, is creating a marketplace to allow relief agencies, local civic authorities, solution providers, carriers, and partner organizations to browse a catalog and choose from a wide range of communications technologies to best suit their needs. This will help them to select and order composite SATCOM and 5G-based services through an AI-assisted front end, the product order then being put through a stack for provisioning and activation; the order-to-activate stack then automatically fulfils the order at the touch of a button with multi-domain orchestration of services across SATCOM and 5G networks. TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture (ODA) sits at the heart of the solution, drawing as it does on a range of ODA components and Open APIs, and GSMA network service description templates are used to capture the needs of business customers through the marketplace.

The outcome is resilient global connectivity which can be relied upon in circumstances where standard terrestrial networks may fail, but standalone satellite connectivity is not feasible. The SATCOM + 5G Anywhere solution therefore enables first responders and those working with them to maintain constant communication both with each other and central command centers during disaster situations, and employ relevant applications and data services in the operational theatre – allowing them to save lives which might otherwise be lost. In 2023, there were roughly 95,000 fatalities worldwide caused by natural disasters – meaning if a step change in the reliability of communications equipment on the ground could improve matters by just 10%, over 9,000 lives could be saved in a single year. As more sophisticated tools emerge – for instance IoT-based forest fire management, or connected medical record systems for rapid mobile clinic response – those lives can best be saved with reliable and ubiquitous connectivity.

Wider value

Beyond the immediate humanitarian advantages at hand – offering connectivity access to everyone, wherever they are, and saving lives in the process – the solution will help to broaden the commercial applicability of satellite connectivity, for instance by supporting oil rigs and container ships currently limited to standalone SATCOM. By complementing SATCOM with private onsite 5G, these sites will enjoy game-changing low-latency communications, enabling far more efficient operations and enhanced business capabilities. New revenue streams can therefore be generated which would otherwise have been difficult to achieve individually for telcos and SATCOMs, as global businesses become increasingly able to procure and provision complex composite connectivity products with reduced planning and deployment efforts.

The initiative also makes direct contributions to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals. Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) is satisfied by showcasing how innovative communications technology can underpin resilient infrastructure to save lives during emergencies; Goal 14 (Life Below Water) is met by helping to protect biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems which can be heavily affected by natural disasters; and similarly for Goal 15 (Life on Land) the project aids preservation of terrestrial wildlife and sustainable land use.

“This Catalyst addresses a unique opportunity domain that is going to be a hotbed of innovation and disruption in the next 3-5 years,” explains David Villegas, Director, Digital Architecture at SES. “The convergence between 5G and satellite communication networks is a hot topic and the proposed seminal use cases tackle real emerging business needs at a global level for telcos and SATCOMs, as they both look to capture market share for connectivity services encouraged by higher resilience and reliability requirements.”

“By bringing together SATCOM with 5G as a single offer that can be provisioned and activated across terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks seamlessly, this Catalyst offers the promise of a simpler digital experience for these critical use cases that can deliver the solution at speed,” adds Costa Pantazopoulos, Vice President, Product - Enterprise Solutions at Bell Canada. “This solution offers a vital lifeline,” agrees Mohamed Ben Ayad, Chairman of LPTIC. “With Satcom plus 5G, we can ensure reliable connectivity even in the most remote and devastated regions – but the broader application extends beyond emergency response. It paves the way for enhanced communication infrastructure, fostering economic development and social inclusion.”

To learn more about the Catalyst or make an enquiry about how you can support it, please see the project space on the TM Forum website here.

SATCOM + 5G anywhere - Phase II