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How TRANTOR is paving 5G NTN towards 6G

Automated dynamicity is essential for 5G Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) due to highly dynamic radio access management. In parallel, human-operated, monolithic radio frequency management used by satellite operators is inefficient for 5G. To stay up in the front, redesigned NOC controllers are addressing the limitations of the current software architecture, despite teleport technologies are not suitable for 5G due to massive users with changing data demands and dynamical link budgets. Fortunately, 5G NTN and pre-6G networks have the key to solve all these problems thanks to their 3D multi-layered networks, using multiple satellites and frequency bands.

To reduce reliance on third countries for satellite broadband internet access, the European industry needs to invest in research, innovation, and local businesses. Automating the satellite radio access network using AI and ML can reduce manual processes, and unifying radio access and satellite operations control is important for efficient communications. User-centric design and merging 5G NTN satellite operations with NOCs messaging and telemetry controls can improve throughput and cost-effectiveness.

TRANTOR describes scenarios for Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) usage that provide connectivity to under-served areas, moving platforms, and offer network resilience using both terrestrial networks and non-terrestrial networks. The scenarios involve handovers between different satellite beams, bands, satellites, and orbits to optimize network mobility and continuity. TRANTOR also tests a regenerative-satellite based NG-RAN architecture with a gNB-DU on board, connected via a flexible payload satellite to a gNB-CU on the ground, aiming to improve satellite capacity and reduce fronthaul capacity and network delay while maintaining QoS. NTN can complement TN and provide efficient and resilient connectivity where TN is not available or reliable.

Use Case 1: Disaster Relief

NTN play a crucial role in providing connectivity in areas where TN are difficult to deploy or non-existent, such as underserved regions. Satellite technology is particularly important in disaster relief efforts, where it can restore communication links in areas where terrestrial radio access has been destroyed. In emergency situations, such as after an earthquake, satellite connectivity is essential for coordinating rescue efforts and restoring 5G NTN to assist rescue teams in their work, providing radio access networks in areas where terrestrial communications are unavailable.

Use Case 2: Access to User Equipment Vehicle Mounted

There is an emergency situation in an area where the local network coverage is insufficient for real-time communication. Public Safety 5G NTN can improve both local and wide-area public safety networks by establishing direct communication between emergency responder terminals, ensuring service continuity and widespread safety. Communication between the NGC and tactical cells can be maintained through satellites, allowing the transfer of data, audio, and video signals to ensure local security.

Use Case 3: CU/DU splitting study for the 3GPP Release 18

5G gNB can be splitted into two parts, gNB-DU and gNB-CU, to reduce required fronthaul capacity and delay, while maintaining QoS and network flexibility. The gNB-DU is on board the satellite and the gNB-CU is on the ground segment. Users on Side B may use different network services, such as voice or video, which have different latency tolerances.

Use Case 4: Wide area public safety

Handover between two satellite bands by using a fixed UE.

A massive storm is heading towards Side B, and the weather prediction centre has alerted of possible floods, power outages, and communication disruptions. Emergency responders such as police, fire brigade, and medical personnel have been equipped with UEs and an external multiband satellite antenna transmission capability, which will allow them to communicate with each other using messaging, voice, and video services even in adverse weather conditions on Side B. Depending on the service availability and weather condition, they will employ either Ku or Ka band to communicate with Side A, where other emergency responders will coordinate to ensure continuity of service.

Use Case 5: NTN-TN Service continuity mobile UE

Handover between two satellites by using a mobile UE.

This use case focuses on the need for pervasive communications and ubiquitous coverage for connected vehicles, including ground vehicles, maritime and aerial vehicles, and drones. These vehicles require continuous connectivity to support edge computing services such as situation awareness, decision support, and distributed AI tasks. The use case highlights the limitations of real-time requirements not guaranteed by GEO satellite links.

Use Case 6: NTN-TN Service Continuity in a Train

Handover between two satellites in different orbits using a SOTM UE.

Long distance trains often travel outside the coverage of terrestrial networks, and rely on NTN such as GEO and LEO satellites for communication services. However, the layout of the railway ground affects the satellite coverage, with GEO satellites having limited coverage due to low elevation angles. LEO constellations provide better coverage, and the use of both orbits provides almost complete coverage throughout the entire journey. This combined NTN use case allows for the provision of various 5G services to passengers, railway operators, and infrastructure operators.

©Pictures generated by Albert Pellicer (Indra).