Satellite 5G Too Inflexible for Today’s Connected Cars

Satellite connected car connections are too far away to be a current solution, is the claim being made, rather unsurprisingly, by a telecommunications company.

That’s the word from Anritsu, the Japanese telecommunications company. TU-Automotive spoke to François Ortolan, wireless specialist at the connectivity company, who indicated that, at least for the next five years, cellular 5G is better for automotive applications than satellite.

He explained: “The problem is that the satellites in space right now are not flexible enough to be reconfigured. A new satellite from disrupters such as the OneWeb satellite constellation, Amazon, SpaceX, possibly could be reconfigurable but satellites have even longer development cycles than SIM cards, so we cannot expect 5G over satellite within five years.”

Ortolan said that the initial plan for the 3GPP, the global mobile networks standards body, was for 5G over satellite to be included in the next release but this has been pushed back. “So, satellite 5G technology has not yet been defined by the 3GPP. This is a standard which  everyone contributes to; cellular operator, device makers, automakers now. They were planning to introduce a 5G satellite in release 16, which is what they’re supposed to start working on next year. However, they have pushed this work to release 17 which means 2021,” he said.

Cellular 5G’s frequency is low, meaning the receiving device needs to be closer to the cell tower than with 4G or 3G to receive a stable, fast internet connection. With a car, this can be an issue because they move between cell towers frequently, disrupting the signal and connection. On the other hand, a satellite connection can be more stable with the connection maintained over long distances, as telecommunications firm Kymeta told TU-Automotive last month.

However, Ortolan said he believes 5G over satellite will happen, eventually, and with it the ‘convergence’ between the different types of connectivity solutions. “Within five years, it’s not really a topic but it will come. The ambition of 5G is to be the real convergence between all the technology, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and satellite. Although, this was the aim with LTE, but as every organization has conflicting interests, it didn’t happen.”

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