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VTT and ESA begin strategic cooperation with an aim to develop nonterrestrial 5G networks

The strategic partnership between VTT and ESA provides excellent support for the objectives of the Finnish Space Strategy and responses to its priorities. Furthermore, the agreement shows that ESA has confidence in VTT’s ability to develop cutting-edge technology for the space sector. ESA strives to collaborate with the kind of actors with competences that may have major impacts for the whole of Europe.

“Integrating satellite into 5G is vital both for the growth of the commercial space industry and for making 5G truly ubiquitous. Our intent is to encourage European space and non-space industry to make use of the live trial platforms that VTT have developed, which are necessary to enable and demonstrate satellite/5G integration,” says Senior Telecommunication Systems Engineer Maria Guta from ESA.

Aiming at integration of terrestrial and satellite networks

VTT and ESA are currently examining what would be the requirements and the necessary technologies for the integration of 5G satellite networks and terrestrial networks, and the common use of 5G pioneer bands. VTT and ESA intend to implement several projects within the sector under the Letter of Intent over the next three years.

“The key aspect of the projects is the use of VTT’s extensive test networks. This is one of the most important means in the development of communications systems,” explains Team Leader Marko Höyhtyä from VTT.

“We will also leverage VTT’s strong expertise in simulations and emulations during the projects.”

The functioning of many everyday services is based on satellites

The integration of satellite and terrestrial networks would benefit the whole society, since even many everyday services are based on data produced by satellites. The systems being developed can be used anywhere where communications systems or, for example, positioning services are needed.

“Satellite connectivity is needed particularly in areas where it would not be economically feasible to build terrestrial networks, such as sparsely populated or distant areas, including the sea, air traffic or frontier areas, lists Höyhtyä.

“Autonomous and remotely controlled ships operating far away from the shore are a natural example of a target where the integration of 5G satellite networks and terrestrial networks is needed in the future.” This area of application has also been selected as one of the key development targets in the collaboration between VTT and ESA.

In addition to communications applications, VTT is also actively developing remote sensing technologies, such as the world’s first miniature infrared hyperspectral imager for the Reaktor Hello World satellite.

The importance of satellite industry increasing

VTT has selected the satellite industry as one of its strategic focus areas and aims to increase relevant operations in collaboration with the Finnish industry. VTT is also actively recruiting employees for promoting the 5G satellite integration.

According to the Working Group on Space Business Opportunities in Finland set up by the Finnish Government, space operations offer new business and growth opportunities for Finnish companies. The goal of the Finnish Space Strategy is to place Finland among the global leaders in space operations within the chosen sectors. For example, the following have been identified as spearhead actions: satellite positioning that supports intelligent transport, and raising the level of scientific research within the sector through, for instance, ESA programmes and international networking. Business Finland’s New Space Economy programme, on the other hand, provides funding for the development of products and services in the space sector with an aim to put Finland on the world map as an expert in space technology.

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