Telco network equipment supplier Ericsson, which is 2degrees' technology partner, is planning to take 5G into space to provide connectivity in most places on Earth.
The Swedish company is working with French aerospace firm Thales and chipmaker Qualcomm for a system that would provide 5G connectivity from low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, to reach difficult geographies, remote areas and oceans for mobile coverage.
Ericsson is working on verifying a 5G virtual radio access network (vRAN) stack that is modified to handle radio signals traversing space and the Earth's atmosphere, via LEO satellites some 500 kilometres in the sky.
Its partner Thales is planning to verify a 5G radio payload suitable for deployment on LEO satellites, with Qualcomm to provide test phones for the network.
5G via LEO satellites planning by the three follows the mobile telco industry 3GPP standards body's release 17, which includes support for non-terrestrial networks for the first time.
Initial tests for the 5G non-terrestrial network will take place in a simulated space environment in France, using ground-based equipment to emulate radio propagation and time delays between a satellite in orbit, and smartphones connecting to RANs in different places on Earth.
The work to provide 5G from space is still at the research and validation stage, with no date set for commercial service release.
Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm are not the only companies looking at providing 5G service from space.
LEO satellite operator OneWeb demonstrated an end-to-end full 5G link in on June 28 this year.
OneWeb used a compact terminal mounted on a car, connecting to a RAN and 5G user devices playing 4K and live videos, as well as streaming audio.
The terminal antenna also linked simultaneously to a high-orbit satellite at 36,000 kilometres, and OneWeb satellites at 1200 km altitude.