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MediaTek boasts 'milestone' in enabling 5G from space

As companies such as Lynk and SpaceMobile race to offer cellular services from space, chipmaker MediaTek hailed what it described as a "new milestone" in combining 5G services with satellite communications.

According to the company, it was able to power a smartphone with a 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN) connection in a lab environment, which it said showcases the possibility to support satellite communications with commercial 5G smartphones.

The smartphone came with MediaTek's NR NTN-enabled test chip, which is compliant with 3GPP Release 17. MediaTek further explained that the demonstration shows how 5G NTN technology can be used for satellite communications by employing the same form factor and design components as a standard smartphone.

Chipmaker Meditek carried out a trial that it says showcases the possibility to support satellite communications with commercial 5G smartphones.   (Source: NASA)
Chipmaker Meditek carried out a trial that it says showcases the possibility to support satellite communications with commercial 5G smartphones.
(Source: NASA)

The trial used Rohde & Schwarz test equipment, emulating a low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation at 600km altitude where each satellite is moving at nearly 27,000km per hour in orbit.

MediaTek general manager of wireless communication systems and partnership HC Hwang said the trial "successfully validated the capability of connecting a 5G smartphone to satellite networks, opening up the door for 5G satellite network development to bring ubiquitous connectivity around the world."

Aiming for the skies

The market is awash with companies attempting to connect regular smartphones to satellites in cellular dead zones.

Both Lynk Global and AST SpaceMobile have recently been touting advancements in efforts to offer cellular service from space, although commercial service launches still appear to be pending.

Iridium, a satellite operator based in Virginia, also announced that it "entered into a development agreement to enable Iridium's technology in smartphones," although without providing much in the way of detail.


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Globalstar has been widely rumored to be involved in some kind of agreement with Apple that could see the satellite company provide services directly to Apple iPhones.

There are growing indications that EchoStar and Dish Network – which share Charlie Ergen as a majority owner – could be developing some kind of hybrid terrestrial-satellite 5G service.

More broadly, future 5G specifications are expected to include satellite components, potentially creating a standard for such hybrid services.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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