Sateliot, Telefónica claim 5G first for roaming connection from space

Low-earth orbit 5G IoT satellite constellation provider teams with Spain-based global telco to extend cellular network roaming to space in test supervised by European Space Agency

Sateliot has teamed with Telefónica to extend the reach of its 5G network to space for the first time in the history of telecommunications, paving the way for massive access to connectivity everywhere in the planet.

Working through the Telefónica Tech and Telefónica Global Solutions (TGS) divisions, Sateliot said the achievement has been successfully tested end-to-end by providing satellite coverage extension to Telefónica’s cellular network through standard GSMA roaming. Sateliot delivered end-to-end transmission over Telefónica’s network using a regular SIM card provisioned on the Kite platform of Telefónica Tech on an IoT cellular device, switching it to Sateliot network.

The test is said to have demonstrated successfully that a standard roaming connection can be authenticated by the Telefónica core through Sateliot networks. It also featured the Store & Forward implementation, a two-step authentication method developed and patented by Sateliot, created to support standard roaming with a Mobile Network Operator and adapted to the non-terrestrial network in low earth orbit (NTN LEO).

The Store & Forward technology is part of a Sateliot 5G network with satellite access that stores data when the satellite is not in position to connect with a ground station and forwards it as it’s entering the coverage range. This is said to be a particularly relevant feature for Sateliot’s delay-tolerant internet of things (IoT) services for its early stage constellation, in which the number of satellites is still limited.

“This is the culmination of years of studies and developments of our Store & Forward two-step authentication procedure that gives Sateliot a unique position to establish roaming extension for NB-IoT NTN delay tolerant applications,” said Sateliot chief technology officer Marco Guadalupi.

“We are in front of a game changer in future 3GPP networks that will reduce costs based on low density constellations and reduced ground segment infrastructure, minimising the impact in space and reducing time to market,” he said.

“It is very exciting to see where we are and what we have accomplished. The IoT industry is clearly headed toward the standard, and we are thrilled to enable it.”

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The test was witnessed by the European Space Agency. Antonio Franchi, the agency’s head of space for its 5G and 6G strategic programme, said: “Sateliot has achieved an important milestone by successfully demonstrating the integration of Low-Earth orbit and Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) with roaming capabilities in Store & Forward mode, along with two-step authentication into a 5G cellular network.

“This significant achievement marks a disruptive advancement in the realm of standard satellite IoT services,” he said. “The successful integration of these technologies paves the way for the digitisation of the world, revolutionising how we harness satellite capabilities for the benefit of global connectivity and communication.”

The results of the demo were said to have confirmed that 5G IoT devices are able to transmit data through a standard roaming interface using Store & Forward two-step authentication, as Sateliot enters commercial operations in 2024.

Potential use cases include the support of 43 million Americans reliant on private water wells; the generation of millions of dollars in savings in maintenance and repairs costs for shipping companies; the assistance to South African livestock owners in their fight to stop poaching and improve herd control; and the provision of a much more precise crop-monitoring system to farmers worldwide.

Starting in 2024, Telefónica will be the first MNO to provide to their customers with NB-IoT everywhere-in-the-planet connectivity through a seamless combination of cellular and satellite standard NB-IoT networks, and with inexpensive commercial standard NB-IoT devices.

“This is a very important milestone for the industry in which Telefónica natively integrates the satellite network with the NB-IoT networks of Telefónica and Kite, the managed IoT connectivity platform developed by Telefónica Tech with which the customer can control and monitor their power lines in real time and remotely from anywhere in the world through a web portal or via APIs,” said Carlos Carazo, technology and technical operations director of IoT and big data at Telefónica Tech.

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