Global 5G from space
- By Ross Wilkers
- Mar 26, 2021
Two tech companies are teaming up to deliver a direct-to-device hybrid 5G network that combines the reach of a global satellites with mobile wireless carrier networks.
Lockheed Martin and commercial satellite startup Omnispace will collaborate on developing 5G capabilities in space under a strategic interest agreement. The partners aim to deliver a space-based 5G global network that lets users switch between satellite and terrestrial networks, potentially removing the need for using ground stations and multiple devices to access different networks.
The 5G standards-based non-terrestrial network (NTN) has the potential to redefine mobile communications, benefiting users requiring true mobility, regardless of environment or location, Lockheed officials said in a release.
The hybrid 5G NTN will leverage Omnispace’s 2 GHz S-band spectrum rights to enable direct-to-device connectivity and interoperability to support government and commercial applications, including mobile joint all-domain interoperable communications.
“We’re able to deliver the mobile communications capability to a standardized 5G base handset or terminal, and as you can imagine that starts to open up an array of applications,” Omnispace President and CEO Ram Viswanathan told CNBC.
"Ultimately, it's about empowering end users with low latency connections that work anywhere. This step forward has the potential to upend space-based mobility,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed’s space segment.
Partnerships such as this one are one way Lockheed wants "to be a bridge” for bringing more commercial technologies into the world, Lockheed CEO Jim Taiclet said last year. The company’s vision of a 5G-enabled military, which Taiclet calls 5G.mil, would feature expanded connectivity, faster and more reliable networks and new data capabilities for connecting people and systems around the world.
Making the 5G.mil construct a reality also goes hand-in-hand with how the U.S. military wants incorporate greater numbers of autonomous systems, which require near real-time connectivity.
"There's a latency benefit, meaning the signaling time in between, transmit and receive, goes from at best maybe between 10 and 50 milliseconds to 2 or 3 milliseconds," Taiclet said at a Baird-hosted investor conference in November.
"The latency and throughput benefits and then the spectrum management and network slicing you can do with 5G actually enable autonomy at scale at one level. They enable burst transmissions with significant multi-gigabit throughput per second."
A longer version of this article was first posted to Washington Technology, a sibling site to GCN.