The GSMA found the number of people living without mobile coverage dropped to 400 million by end-2022 from 1.8 billion in 2015.
The European Space Agency and Deutsche Telekom will jointly work to enable seamless connectivity from terrestrial networks, from the sky, or from above. At Mobile World Congress 2023 in Barcelona, the partners agreed in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work together on the hybrid networks of the future.
They plan to create more resilient and secure connectivity solutions to answer future communication needs. It is especially important in the event of possible disruption to parts of the network technology on the ground. In such a case a non-terrestrial network from satellites or the stratosphere could be used to seamlessly maintain contact with the smartphones of the affected people.
Together with partners, such as the satellite specialists at Intelsat, DT has demonstrated the technical feasibility of this new challenge. They have already been testing the use of various types of antenna platforms in the stratosphere for years. In the process, DT has shown that connection from the ground is increasingly possible with conventional smartphones and, for example, 5G technology.
Now DT and its partners have taken a decisive step forward. During tests in Istria (Croatia), an orchestrated 5G connection was achieved seamlessly across different network layers into the stratosphere, space, and back for the first time worldwide. In the process, the mobile service provided from the stratosphere took the backhaul path via satellite and its ground infrastructure to the backbone network or directly to the ground station. The data transfer started with a standard 5G cell phone over a 20 MHz channel. In the airspace above Pula, DT achieved data speeds of up to 200 Mbit/s in February 2023.
This proves that hybrid communications over terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks can provide the highest level of resilience. Using a satellite network, a unified network provides exactly the fallback option that will help victims of disasters in extreme situations. Intelsat’s multi-orbit solution allows for seamless, uninterrupted use while switching from high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) to geosynchronous satellites if the situation requires change. Requesting help, reporting on the situation on the ground, and thus facilitating the rescue forces' operations - all this now seems more feasible in extreme cases.