Satellite connectivity is emerging as a technological innovation poised to move towards mass market applications, but deploying satellite networks requires complex testing, design and optimization.
TTP, a leading independent technology and product development company, announced on Tuesday a new digital twin technology designed to streamline the deployment of 5G non-terrestrial networks. This digital twin allows companies, suppliers and organizations to virtually test and maximize their systems end-to-end.
TechRepublic caught up with Pascal Herczog, a consultant at TTP, to understand the business implications of this news, dive into the latest technology and gain insights for business leaders about the next era of satellite connectivity.
How digital twins can make distribution more efficient
From user equipment and antenna design to satellite links, terrestrial networks, core network capacity, latency and data rates, NTNs are sophisticated networks that require multiple components in perfect synchronization to function.
“Digital twin technologies allow you to simulate every part of the system,” Herczog said. “It’s important to get that data before product launch, including all parts of that ecosystem.”
TTP’s digital twin can be configured to suit the customer’s requirements. For example, how operators want to configure their satellites in space, frequencies to be used, interference measurements, bottleneck evaluations and more.
“Because it’s end-to-end, it provides a very realistic simulation of the entire system,” Herczog explained.
Once the system is uploaded virtually to the digital twin, developers and engineers can fine-tune it to maximize performance. The use cases for satellite connectivity are widespread and include simple services such as basic voice or messaging at low data rates to more advanced cases such as connected mobility.
“It’s all about coverage,” Herczog added. “That means you have to understand not only where the beam from a satellite is, but what that means in terms of finding patterns. When you look at different terrain models, you get a much better idea of achievable coverage for given areas and different situations. »
TTP’s new technology can also take the digital twin system beyond virtuality by using what is known as hardware-in-the-loop. With this approach, companies can create an end-to-end simulation of the network and add real hardware to the system to measure the performance of the real product.
“You can run a voice call and measure latency or throughput and quality,” Herczog said. “It is very important for operators to understand their satellite services and compare them to the services they use.”
TTP integrated its proprietary lab test tools with Keysight’s PropSim Channel emulator and EXata network modeling suite, in addition to the Ansys STK physics-based modeling environment. The solution is designed for satellite operators, device manufacturers, app developers, mobile network operators and network infrastructure providers to establish how their products and services will interoperate with NTN networks.
TTP will demonstrate the digital twin and lab emulation platform at Mobile World Congress 2023 in Barcelona.
Why satellite connection? The market, technology and trends that drive growth
The Allied market research report Satellite Communication System Market published in December 2022 reveals a growing market expected to reach USD 61.5 billion globally by 2031 at 9.5% CAGR.
Driven by increased accessibility to space, the ability of satellites to provide communication services to remote and underserved areas, increasing demand for global connectivity, and increasing use of IoT devices, satellite communication systems are booming.
End-user industries for the satellite market include civil communications providers, maritime, aerospace and defense, industrial, government, transportation and logistics. Some leading companies in satellite communications are Iridium Communications, KVH Industries, L3Harris Technologies, Orbcomm, Thales Group, ViaSat and SpaceX.
“We realize that there are large areas of the world that are not covered by networks, and very large numbers of people, perhaps billions, are not able to get good connectivity on mobile networks,” Herczog said. “There are also other situations where mobile connectivity is limited – for example in the face of natural disasters or other emergencies.”
Herczog explained that providers have found it too expensive to provide coverage everywhere with base stations on the ground.
“Satellite gives them an ideal opportunity to expand their network coverage,” he said. “People will expect connections everywhere. It will rapidly scale the number of use cases that will benefit from that connectivity.”
The Fourth Industrial Revolution – impacting every sector, from agriculture to manufacturing to the automotive industry – leverages automation, AI, IoT and data-driven edge-cloud platforms. Connectivity is the backbone of the movement, and yet industries often operate in areas without coverage, cross international borders, navigate the high seas, and work in remote and rural areas.
Advantages of using digital twin simulations
Herczog explained that as the number of satellites increases, cellular providers’ interest in understanding satellite capabilities and how to connect to their existing systems will grow.
TTP digital twin simulation includes all the components representing the core network, base stations and handset units. With the simulation, TTP can configure networks composed of satellite and terrestrial components.
“The advantage of digital twins is that you can do all the tests before you launch your product,” Herczog added. “Time-to-market is divided into two parts. One gives greater insight in advance into design optimizations, but the biggest advantage is the work done before the product’s launch.”
Companies that deploy 5G networks that are not optimized risk losing capital, resources and time. They will also have to make the necessary changes to achieve operational capacity. The bottom line? Urgent deployment can threaten viable business models.
Network providers, manufacturers of IoT devices and handset devices are also moving towards offering satellite-compatible hardware.
“There’s going to be a significant advantage in economies of scale,” Herczog said.
He explained that as new technologies are developed and become more available, the cost of satellite connection can be expected to be not significantly different from the terrestrial network.
Business leaders should monitor the evolution of hardware, improvements in data traffic capacity, technologies that link satellites with terrestrial networks, and standardization and roadmaps. Digital twin simulations can be used to design, test, optimise, deploy, maintain and operate NTT networks.
TTP collaborates with established and new space satellite operators, telecommunications companies and suppliers of networks and handsets. The company’s main goals are to support overcoming challenges in deploying satellite connections, helping organizations commercialize NTNs and understanding future applications for the technology.
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