The space industry can take some cues from telecommunications. Considering 5G networks send and receive data using a virtualized network, why shouldn’t space networks – a network with a satellite in it – take note?
On a recent panel at SmallSat Symposium 2021, Kratos Defense’s Senior Vice President (SVP) of product management Greg Quiggle spoke to these lessons.
“A lot of talk about 5G, most people jump to the 5G NR wave form – a new over the air waveform. That’s not the real story. The real story to 5G is that the network’s virtualized. And it allows it to adapt to different SLA requirements,” Quiggle explained.
The panel also included former Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) U.S. Business Development Director Rob Call, who pointed out that that over the next several years we’ll see more advances in virtualization as we move towards greater 5G adoption. People will adopt more standards that have been successful for them. In turn, they will use these standards for space applications.
Speaking of standards, NSR Principal Analyst Lluc Palerm wrote in a recent NSR article that 5G standardizes concepts such as Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV). “Adopting 3GPP standards, satcom could directly integrate technologies developed in the 5G framework to minimize time to market,” he said.
Palerm then tackles virtualization within 5G. “Virtualization is a major topic in 5G … it will also transform the entire value chain with new roles, functions, and ways to coordinate the different layers in the network.” Importantly, he expressed that the ground segment “is at the core of this transition” and must be able to “respond to new requirements such as the new scale of HTS [High-Throughput Satellites], resource optimization in a flexible environment, or constantly changing network conditions.”
Coming back to the Smallsat Symposium panel, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Senior Manager Shayn Hawthorne predicted that we will see more software-defined networks in the future. “That’s really what’s coming,” he said. “The agility and flexibility and scalability in building it in a software-defined way, and a network to meet the needs of the customer.”
“5G opens a window of opportunity for the satellite industry to be integrated with the general telecom industry,” Hawthorne added.
On a recent episode of the Constellations podcast, Quiggle spoke about other advantages of virtualization, and how the move to the cloud and software-defined networking can help keep costs down. “When you move the network to software, what it allows you to do is apply cloud resources as you add customers,” Quiggle explained. “The amount of upfront spend needed is minimized. You put the minimum amount of spend in place to be able to light up the spectrum, but processing the spectrum can scale as you add customers, which really not only makes the overall life cycle cost less, it allows you to also just control the spend. As the revenue comes in, a portion of that goes to the cost of your network versus needing to spend all of that upfront.”
Through these lessons and integration with the telecommunications industry, the space industry could benefit.