Satellites poised to join 5G network topology
The word “topology” in the telecom industry refers to the arrangement of the elements in a network’s architecture. It’s how all the cables, switches and cell towers are organized around each other in order to make sure a sender’s message is delivered to their intended recipient.
There are growing indications that satellites may soon be added to that list of potential elements.
Of course, satellites can already play a role in the operation of a wireless network, including a 5G network. Their role to date primarily involves backhauling traffic from a cell site that’s too rural to use fiber or microwave backhaul. But that’s a rare situation given the sluggish performance and eye-watering cost of most satellite Internet connections.
That situation is rapidly changing with the rise of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite operators like SpaceX’s Starlink, Telesat’s Lightspeed or OneWeb. Such satellite constellations promise speedy, inexpensive connections that might better serve 5G operators’ backhaul needs. However, it must be noted that analysts from the likes of Cowen, MoffettNathanson and Viasat continue to poke holes in the notion that LEO satellite constellations will be able to meet widespread demand.
But backhaul is just one topological element that satellite operators are hoping to offer in the 5G era.
For example, a growing number of startups and veteran satellite providers are looking beyond backhaul to provide Internet of Things (IoT) services in direct competition to 5G providers.
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