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Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to some of the most common questions we receive at GateHouse SatCom relating to 5G NB-IoT.

Who is GateHouse SatCom and what are we working on?
What is our business?

We at GateHouse SatCom are a software only company, and don´t offer any hardware related products. More than 15 different software solutions for space connectivity have been developed by us. Currently, we are developing the bi-directional 5G NB-IoT NTN software (the NodeB), which will be compliant to the 3GPP standard. It can be used in satellite systems for GSO / MEO / LEO satellites, user terminals, and ground infrastructure, supporting up- and downlink. 5G Broadband software (New Radio), as well as Inter Satellite Links are on our roadmap as well.

Besides being software developers, we are doing feasibility studies (consultancy services), to help our customers (space companies) understanding how they can approach 5G NB-IoT for their satellite system.

Do we provide connectivity services to private users?

No. We are a software development company, developing software protocols for businesses (e.g. satellite operators), who can use the software to offer connectivity services.

When is the 5G NB-IoT waveform (NodeB) ready?

We are developing the 5G NB-IoT software as part of the official 3GPP standardization group. This means that the NodeB will be commercially available adhering to the standardization´s timeline. This is the beginning of 2024 (for Rel. 18 – for regenerative mode). Rel.17 (transparent mode) will already be commercially available by mid-2022.

To be ready when 5G NB-IoT kicks off officially, we recommend reviewing your system set-up and satellite fleet already today. We will be happy to guide you through that.

Who are our customers?

For the 5G NB-IoT software (the NodeB), our main customers are satellite operators who wish to bring 5G NB-IoT connectivity services into their portfolio. Besides the standard software development, we are always eager to develop proprietary space software as well (e.g. for military projects).

We also help ground infrastructure providers to understand how they can support 5G NB-IoT for space.

How does our software differ from what other players are doing within 5G NB-IoT?

GateHouse has a long history developing protocols for the SatCom industry, and we have vast experience with the complexities that communication via satellite connectivity includes.

We are part of the 3GPP standardization group developing the 5G standards and we bring our understanding of satellite connectivity to the 3GPP work.

GateHouse also offers assessments of future 5G satellite systems for Satellite Service providers, to help push 5G technology to the market.

What projects and studies have we done for satellite 5G NB-IoT?

We are contributing to the 3GPP standardization group as an active member. ESA projects, together with other NTN players, are another important success ingredient for us.

We have conducted lab- and In-Orbit-demonstrations (IoD) for LEO satellites, and have a planned GSO IoD with ESA and another LEO IoD early 2022.

3GPP Standardization and the 5G NB-IoT vision
What is the upcoming 3GPP 5G NB-IoT standard about?

The standardization group 3GPP is known for standardization especially in the mobile industry, with technologies such as 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G. With 5G, the 3GPP group will include standardized satellite protocols as something new. This is, when implemented, quite ground breaking for the satellite industry, as this market has historically been characterized by proprietary systems.

One impact of this will be that connectivity can be offered even in the most remote areas, where terrestrial connectivity is not available today, but with hybrid networks expected to take over. This means that IoT devices will be able to switch between terrestrial and non-terrestrial connectivity, to have constant connectivity.

Due to being a standard with mass market volume, the costs for connectivity are expected to drastrically go down. Satellite connectivity will not keep the same prices as today. With this merge of mobile and satcom industry taking place, a new world will open up with endless new opportunities.

What does the expected market for 5G NB-IoT look like – what are use cases?

The 5G NB-IoT NTN market is expected to be in the area of half a billion of connected devices. These NTN services are expected in all verticals, which include IoT devices which send small amounts of data and that need connectivity even in the remotest areas.

The need for 5G NB-IoT NTN can range from public services verticals (e.g. rescue), to logistics, agriculture, oil and gas or mining.​

Conrete use cases could be for example​ (1) emergency cars entering remote areas, which still need to communicate with the hospital​, (2) connected cars, or logistics on land, telling you when a container would arrive​, (3) IoT sensors in a farm, measuring fertilizer levels and thereby ensuring a smart supply chain​, or (4) sensors to monitor oil pipelines and continuously send small amounts of data for control.

How will the network be managed between satellite operators on the non-terrestrial network side (NTN) and the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) on the terrestrial network (TN) side? (Where can end users buy 5G NB-IoT connectivity)

The expected end-vision of the 5G standardization anticipates connectivity provision handled by MNOs. This would mean that IoT customers who need connectivity for their IoT terminals, would approach their local MNO, who offers connectivity for dual mode networks (meaning terrestrial and non-terrestrial connectivity – TN and NTN). In this case, the satellite operator would have an agreement with the MNO. Until the standardization has evolved to this point, we expect satellite operators to offer 5G network directly to their customers, with the MNO brought in case by case.

When will the 5G NB-IoT standard be available?

According to the standardization group´s timeline, the complete 5G NB-IoT standard will be commercially available by the beginning of 2024 (for Rel. 18 – regenerative mode). Rel.17 (transparent mode) will already be commercially available by mid-2022.

Should you wait with looking into 5G NB-IoT, until the standard is commercially available?

It all depends on your business strategy. If the IoT market, especially with devices that only send small amounts of data (Narrowband-IoT) could be an interesting asset to your service portfolio, we recommend lookng into 5G NB-IoT already today.

The reason for this is that it takes some time until you have analyzed your system set-up – to understand any requirements or changes (e.g. for designing a new satellite fleet, or how to adjust your current ones) that you need to realize your 5G strategy.

We recommend starting with this today, to make sure you are ready, once the 5G market takes off. We will be happy to support you with your system assessment.

Will there be spectrum/frequency available in your country?

5G NB-IoT connectivity for NTN and TN networks is expected to be a global standard. Please approach your local ITU, to obtain and apply for spectrum allocation.

What antenna is required for an NTN 5G NB-IoT device?

It is desirable and possible to use the same kind of omnidirectional antennas which are used in terrestrial IoT devices. To compensate for the low device antenna gain, the satellite shall be equipped with a directional antenna with a higher gain. It will still be beneficial and possible for some devices to use a higher gain antenna to obtain a better link-budget.

Which chipsets are expected for TN/NTN dualmode 5G NB-IoT operations?

To support NTN 5G NB-IoT connectivity, common chipsets that can support multiple access technologies, as well as control carriers on multiple frequencies, are expected to be used.

For LEO satellites, the chipsets will need to be able to control the timing and frequency drifting, caused by the varying time delay and Doppler due to the satellite’s motion.

Satellite Operators´ questions
How do we help satellite operators realize their 5G strategy?

We help satellite operators understand if and how their system set-up can support 5G NB-IoT, with our background in satcom software and integration knowledge. Because our goal is to make our customer´s 5G strategy a success.

We do this by designing an individual pre-assessment or feasibility study based on the operator´s individual needs and system set-up. The goal is to verify the viability of supporting 5G NB-IoT, and to calculate the system capacity and business case, for example.

For this, we bring in our expertise for simulations of the link budget, and the assessment of the system capabilities. Pilot projects are also on our agenda, with the goal to develop a commercial 5G NB-IoT system for satellite operators.

How does the 5G NB-IoT software protocol differ for NGSO and GSO satellites?

Major differences are on the satellites´ infrastructure. One example is the different location of the NodeB functionality.

For help in assessing how your satellite system set-up can support 5G NB-IoT connectivity, please do contact us.

Is 5G NB-IoT not more suitable for NGSOs than GSOs?

The 5G NTN standard is working with two different satellite configurations – the 1) Transparent mode, and 2) Regenerative mode.

The 3GPP 5G standardization group has started with the specification of the transparent mode in Rel-17, where the regenerative mode is planned for future releases. The transparent mode fits to both GEO and NGSO satellites.

The standard also looks into the supported frequencies. E.g. the higher the frequency, the more challenges are expected for the performance, as the frequency influences the antenna size. If you want to assess how your satellite set-up is suitable for supporting 5G NB-IoT, please contact us.

In what frequencies does NTN 5G NB-IoT operate?

Even though current operational satellite frequency bands can be used, from 3GPP directive, the S-band (2-4 GHz) is set as an exemplary band.

That´s why we are currently developing the software with L- and S-band reference. However, with Ka and Ku band present in many traditional GSO satellites, we are also looking into this case. The higher frequencies will require a bigger antenna. We will be happy to support you with understanding and assessing exact requirements and potential use cases.

What link budget is anticipated for NTN NB-IoT?

There will often be direct line-of-sight between satellite and device but the Free-Space-Path-Loss for NTN NB-IoT is higher, due to longer distance. The link budget is calculated separately for up- and downlink. Uplink is favored by the use of single-tone transmission which theoretically adds up to 17 dB gain. Antennas on GSO satellites are typically having a large gain (around 50 dBi) while it is less for LEO satellites. This results in LEO and GSO link-budgets with comparable dB ranges. Calculation on a small-sat LEO case indicates that SNR range for downlink is -5 to 0 dB while for uplink it is -2 to 3 dB (depending on elevation angle and distance between the device and satellite).

What latency level is anticipated with GSO and LEO satellites?

With GSO satellites positioned stationary at 36.000 km from Earth propagation delays up to 541 ms will occur. Comparably for a scenario with a LEO satellite on 600 km distance, this will vary between 4-26 ms depending on the position of the satellite in relation to the device for regenerative systems. For transparent systems, as focused on in 3GPP Rel-17, the LEO propagation delay is doubled (8-52 ms).

How is Doppler effect handled with NB-IoT and non stationary satellites (NGSO)?

Since NGSO satellites (e.g. LEO or MEO satellites) are moving around the earth at very high speeds (can be as fast as 28.000 km/hour), transmission signals are influenced by the Doppler-effect. Mathematical algorithms are helping to reconstruct the transmission signalling by taking into account the (moving) positions of the satellite and device. For this GNSS position information of the satellite will be transmitted within System Information Broadcast messages. The device’s location can either be fixed configured or retrieved via an embedded GNSS module. By doing this, the original signal can be recovered and the uplink transmission can be pre-compensated at the device side.

Will there be a seamless satellite handover in a LEO or GSO scenario?

Devices can stay connected to the same GSO satellite, since the satellite is stationary. LEO satellites are moving in relation to earth, and devices will need to continue reselecting different satellites. Otherwise, connection gaps will be experienced. As NB-IoT currently does not support Handover procedures, a message transfer will need to finish during the pass of a single satellite.

How can you, as a ground station infrastructure provider, support 5G NB-IoT services for satellites?

Your ground station infrastructure needs edge computing capabilities to support 5G. For more details, please reach out to us.

Have more questions?

If you would like further information or clarification, please feel free to contact us.

Juline Hilsch | Sales Executive