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Hybrid Satellite-Cellular for Internet and IoT networks

One of the great challenges facing governments around the world is how they should ensure equitable access to the internet for their population – whether they are in the centre of the capital city, or in a remote village – with minimal infrastructure.

The choice of a satellite telecommunications system rather than a terrestrial one is usually driven by its intrinsic capabilities, for instance very large coverage areas, speed of implementation and inherent multicasting and broadcasting capabilities. Nevertheless, satellite systems suffer from many drawbacks such as technological complexity, high costs, and deep fading at high frequencies (Ka band).

Clearly, a satellite-based solution removes geographic barriers, but we have to find a business model where the connectivity is self-funding if it to be successful in the long run. This solution leverages the infrastructure that is already present, ie 2G or 3G cellular connectivity, with the tremendous reach of satellite.

A hybrid solution takes the best of both media; the ease of use and our customers’ expertise with terrestrial networks, along with ubiquitous coverage and superior network performance of the satellite network.

Indeed, such Satellite-Terrestrial integrated Networks (STNs) composed of a diversity of superimposed telecommunication networks display the following advantages:
They can support a diversity of services, and especially efficient multicast and broadcast services,
They enable the user to be anywhere and anytime connected by ubiquitously extending the coverage area of the telecommunication systems, at the best price and with the best possible connection,
They optimize the usage of the resources of the telecommunications networks by selecting the most appropriate network for the transmission of each service (e.g. multicast or broadcast services are preferentially carried over satellite systems, whereas conversational or point to point services are transferred over the terrestrial networks), and by decreasing the traffic load in congested terrestrial areas with the transfer of part of the traffic over the satellite systems thanks to appropriate load balancing mechanisms.

 

Hybrid  Satellite-Cellular Architectures

One of the main, traditional roles of satellite systems has been and will likely remain the broadcasting or multicasting of the same content to a wide, geographically spread community of users.  For this reason, the most straightforward hybrid architecture envisaged is based upon a forward link using a geostationary broadcast satellite whereas the return link takes benefit of already existing, low bandwidth network architectures such as the classical Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or even xDSL connections. Such hybrid systems already exist. One can quote for instance the AstraNet system providing IP telecommunication services using an ASTRA satellite in the forward link and a terrestrial telephone line in the return link.

In 2 or 2,5 G networks (GSM, GPRS) and 3G networks (UMTS), satellite systems can advantageously be used as additional Satellite Radio Access Network (S-RAN). The satellite system should preferentially work in frequency ranges close to the ones used in the terrestrial networks (L band (1.5 to 2.65 GHz) and S band (2.65 to 3.95 GHz)) and use similar, adapted communication standards.

When a S-RAN is available, the most obvious gain consists in the possibility to greatly extend the coverage of classical cellular terrestrial wireless RANs which are not covering remote areas. With such a coverage extension, telephony for maritime and aeronautical users, remote surveillance of high value objects e.g. pipelines and industrial plants in hard to access regions, news gathering and database access for journalists operating in remote parts of the world, tele-diagnostic in emergency cases, and many other telemetry applications can be supported.

In case the S-RAN and RAN coverage areas overlap, traffic can be shared among the different available RANs. For instance, the S-RAN could be used to relieve the congested RAN by carrying a significant part of the traffic. In this case, the S-RAN can be efficiently used in high population density areas, potentially with terrestrial repeaters for a better penetration into buildings, in urban or sub-urban areas. Combining terrestrial RAN and S-RAN considerably increases the capacity of the UMTS network. Load balancing or traffic differentiation can also be performed in this case.

In rural and remote areas, or for specific applications (corporate networks of wide spread business units), satellite systems can be employed as a transparent backhauling link characterized only by its maximum throughput, latency characteristics, and error rate, connecting several parts of the same network or several independent networks.

Another widespread use of satellite systems in hybrid networks consists in the interconnection of private, Local Area Networks (LANs) or of Mobile Ad-hoc NETworks (MANETs). The architecture comprises of satellite system with ultra fast on-board switching and processing, providing within a single satellite hop fully meshed connectivity between satellite terminals, connected to LANs or even Wide Area Networks (WANs) of professional users for corporate applications. With such a system, it is possible to create secure and fully meshed Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) of users over satellite, and of course also to connect these professional users to terrestrial networks and further to different service providers.

The use of a satellite system with on-board switching enables to provide single satellite hop connections among users, which improves the satellite bandwidth usage, reduces the transmission delay and in practical allows the use of all kinds of applications, from the conversational ones (e.g. video conferencing) to the background ones (file or email transfer).

Satellite systems can also be used in hybrid architectures as alternative, redundant systems to ensure the continuity of the telecommunication services for critical infrastructures. In case of communication critical infrastructures such as oil refineries, banks, stock exchange places, or critical applications such as telemedicine, stock management, money transfer or military applications, the necessity of a reliable, and always available network is crucial. Such high availability cannot be provided by a unique terrestrial network, especially in some specific situations such as a disaster or a break down of the telecommunication infrastructures.

Challenges

However, current STN paradigms still suffer several challenges. Firstly, due to the fast movement of satellites, Inter-Satellite Links (ISLs) and satellite-to-earth links are unstable, and meanwhile data traffic possesses a non-uniform distribution in both temporal and spatial domains, which calls for more flexible network management and control.

Secondly, in-efficient spectrum sharing between space segment and terrestrial segment can easily cause mutual interference or suffer underutilization of scarce spectrum. Third, the lack of interoperability between SatCom networks and TerCom networks caused by the heterogeneities of hardware and software also raises the difficulty of cross-domain collaboration. In addition, STNs require a more intelligent operation system to schedule multi-dimensional resources and implement advanced management functions, such as predictive maintenance and performance bottleneck analysis.

In hybrid systems, some specific network functionalities should be supported. For instance, handover becomes much more complicated. Whereas in classical cellular wireless systems handover between two different adjacent cells is performed taking into account SNIR measurements, terminal location and congestion statistics, in hybrid architectures, also inter-system handover shall be performed. With this respect, soft and seamless handovers may be hard to achieve.

In hybrid satellite/terrestrial telecommunication systems, usually more than one path is available in point-to-point communication, and the traffic should be routed over a specific path according to different criterions such as cost, QoS, application type, etc…, used as input parameters in a specific cost function.

In addition, protocol convergence shall be achieved in order to facilitate these handover procedures and the design of multi-mode terminals: this is now envisaged for instance with the development of the DVB-S and DVB-T (Terrestrial) standards, or the DVB-H (Handheld) and DVB-SH (Satellite services to Handheld devices).

Finally, the issues of authentication, security and billing shall be carefully and consistently addressed. End-to-end security shall be provided in a coherent way and at different layers (login and password at application layer, encryption over the satellite air interface, etc…). The amount of traffic carried over different sections of the hybrid system shall also be carefully accounted, since prices may widely vary from e.g. terrestrial systems to satellite systems.

 

Hybrid satellite-Cellular connectivity for IoT

The Internet of things Network is a digital interconnection network between devices, people, and the Internet itself, which allows for the exchange of data between them, in such a way that key information about the use and performance of the devices and objects can be captured to detect patterns, make recommendations, improve efficiency, and create better experiences for users.

The current IoT leverages existing wired and wireless network infrastructures for communications and control. However, as IoT devices continue to proliferate in parallel with higher data rate communications and data services, these existing networks will become increasingly stressed and congested, particularly in remote and underserved regions of the world.

Satellite IoT refers to the use of satellite communication networks and services to connect terrestrial IoT sensors and IoT end-nodes to a server (e.g., in a public or private cloud), either in conjunction with or as an alternative to terrestrial communication networks.

Partnership and collaboration are key in IoT deployment, as we can see in the satellite IoT connectivity ecosystem. Terrestrial and satellite IoT network operators are increasingly partnering to offer hybrid connectivity solutions, for example, Kinéis and Deutsche Telekom (Kinéis’ KIM 1 module is now certified by Deutsche Telekom and can be used by the latter’s customers in hybrid cellular-satellite solutions).

The solution enables IoT devices to use terrestrial connectivity (e.g., cellular) as their primary option and switch to satellites when moving to areas with no terrestrial network coverage. The solution requires two different RF chipsets embedded in the end-user device or satellite terminal.

Furthermore, new technologies that provide terrestrial and satellite connectivity through a single communication RF chipset are emerging. For example, the LoRa Edge LR1120 chipset supports Sub-GHz LoRa, SATCOM S-band, and 2.4 GHz Lora.

However, the single communication RF chipset supporting terrestrial and satellite connectivity can also be implemented on existing IoT devices through a firmware upgrade with no or minimal hardware changes, allowing vendors to leverage existing certifications, devices, and ecosystems. For example, Sateliot and OQ have developed similar solutions that enable existing NB–IoT devices to communicate via satellite, requiring only a firmware update to the devices without necessitating any changes to the hardware or antenna.

The partnership between SpaceX and T-Mobile will close global gaps in connectivity

The new plan, which will co-exist with T-Mobile’s existing cellular network, as well as SpaceX’s Starlink Internet constellation, will provide T-Mobile cellular users with the ability to send texts, images and, ultimately, voice calls from geographic areas where cellular service simply does not currently exist.

Once deployed, the benefits of merging these two technologies go beyond convenience, with T-Mobile saying it will allow reliable satellite communication from most any cellphone on their network. It’s not hard to imagine what the benefit to general aviation would be when this technology comes to fruition (think emergency communications in desolate, hostile environments like Greenland, deserts across the globe and in the U.S. vast areas of Alaska, to name a few).

 

Kymeta proposes a Hybrid-Satellite Cellular solution for autonomous vehicles (AVs)

The Automotive Edge Computing Consortium (AECC) makes 3 significant observations regarding the demands of the connected vehicle:
1. Connected vehicles will generate around US$150B in annual revenue.
2. The number of connected vehicles will grow to around 100M globally.
3. The data volume transmitted between vehicles and the cloud will be around 100 petabytes per month.

In the future with connected vehicles, the data traffic will be vast, and new network infrastructures and computing architectures will be needed for processing and storage. Vehicles will generate and consume data in various scenarios such as vehicle to everything (V2X), the vehicle as a living room for infotainment and e-commerce, and autonomous driving. To support these scenarios, reliable and ubiquitous connectivity is essential.

To achieve fully-global and high-throughput coverage, Kymeta proposes a hybrid connectivity solution whereby fixed terrestrial networks are supplemented with high-throughput satellite access technologies.  Hybrid connectivity uses multi-access technology routing to provide the
optimal independent or aggregated connection from a source, such as an edge router, to a destination (i.e., a public data network such as the Internet). In the hybrid connectivity system, local users connect to the edge router over a standard interface such as IEEE 802.11-based Wi-Fi or direct Ethernet a

As the device maintains a connection to the router, protocols within the router determine the best access technologies to attach to the internet. If the users are not co-located with the edge router, then other technologies such as IP mesh networking or LTE small cells can be connected to extend the network from the edge router.

 

Hybrid-Satellite Cellular Terminal Market

The global hybrid-satellite cellular terminal market is expected to reach $696.4 million by 2031, with a CAGR of 22.81% during the forecast period 2021-2031.

The growing need for high-speed and secure wireless communication in remote areas is expected to enhance the hybrid-satellite cellular terminal market during the forecast period.

Furthermore, the increasing growth in the number of smartphones and tablets is advancing the number of devices connected to the internet every year. This staggering growth in the usage of the Internet of Things (IoT) services is expected to provide new growth avenues to the market players over the coming years.

Between 2003 and 2018, many governments and commercial organizations such as SES S.A., Europe Space Agency (ESA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) started demonstration on for hybrid-satellite cellular terminal for different platforms. Since then, technology has evolved continually and transformed the entire space industry by developing unique products and systems.

Market Segmentation

  • End User: Oil and Gas, Media and Entertainment, Mining, Defense and Government, Aviation, Enterprise, Naval, Automotive, and Logistics and Transportation
  • Platform: Land, Maritime, and Aeronautical
  • Frequency Band: S-Band Terminal and Ka- and Ku-Band Terminal
  • Service: Video and Voice Service, Data Service, and Tracking and Monitoring

Hybrid-Satellite Cellular Terminal Market by End-User

The government and defense end user segment is estimated to dominate the global hybrid-satellite cellular terminal market due to the growing need for high-speed communication to emergency responders and different armored vehicles.

Hybrid-Satellite Cellular Terminal Market by Platform

Land is the most prominent platform contributing toward the growth of the global hybrid-satellite cellular terminal market. This is due to the increasing number of the hybrid-satellite cellular terminals for end-users such as oil and gas, mining, defense and government, automotive, and logistics and transportation.

Hybrid-Satellite Cellular Terminal Market by Region

North America is expected to account for the highest share of the global hybrid-satellite cellular terminal market, owing to a significant number of companies based in the region, increased spending by government and commercial organizations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Space X, and Kymeta Corporation for the hybrid-satellite cellular terminal.

Key Market players include Cubic Telecom, Comtech Telecommunication Corp., Eutelsat S.A.,
EchoStar Corporation, Inmarsat (Connect Bidco Ltd.), IP Access International, JT Group Limited
Kymeta Corporation, OQ Technology, Orbocomm, ST Microelectronics

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228870653_Hybrid_satelliteterrestrial_networks_State_of_the_art_and_future_perspectives

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210915005514/en/Hybrid-Satellite-Cellular-Terminal-Market-Research-Report-2021—ResearchAndMarkets.com

About Rajesh Uppal

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