The milestone paves the way for extensive access to connectivity everywhere on the planet 

Spanish firms Sateliot and Telefónica say they have extended the reach of the 5G network into space for the first time in telecommunications history.  

The two firms carried out a test overseen by the European Space Agency (ESA), during which they extended the coverage of Telefónica’s terrestrial 5G network through standard GSMA roaming using Sateliot’s satellite network.  

The trial used a regular SIM card on an Internet of Things (IoT) device, which was able to “seamlessly” switch to Sateliot’s network of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. 

The test demonstrated successfully that a standard roaming connection can be authenticated by Telefónica’s core network even when delivered through a non-terrestrial network such as Sateliot’s. This was achieved using a two-step authentication process named ‘Store & Forward’, which stores data when the satellite is not in position to connect with a ground station, and forwards it on as soon it enters the coverage range, according to Sateliot. 

“Sateliot has achieved an important milestone by successfully demonstrating the integration of Low-Earth orbit and NTN (Non-Terrestrial Network) with roaming capabilities in Store&Forward mode, along with two-step authentication into a 5G cellular network,” said Antonio Franchi, Head of Space for 5G and 6G Strategic Programme at the ESA. 

According to Telefónica, this solution will be launched commercially next year, providing ‘everywhere-in-the-planet connectivity’ for offering IoT devices.  Telefónica aims to be the first mobile network operator to offer narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) connectivity everywhere in the world. 

“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. 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, minimizing the impact in space and reducing time to market,” said Sateliot’s chief technology officer Marco Guadalupi. 

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