Satellite-based Hybrid 5G Network Takes Shape

Article By : George Leopold

Lockheed Martin and Omnispace are collaborating on a 5G satellite service that would link to terrestrial wireless networks.

Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northern Virginia-based Omnispace LLC will explore joint development of a satellite-based 5G network promising global coverage.

The proposed orbiting 5G network would link with consumer, corporate and government devices, offering what the partners said would be “ubiquitous communications worldwide” and “mobility, regardless of environment or location.”

The agreement announced this week includes Lockheed Martin’s space division in Littleton, Colo. Omnispace of McLean, Va., was founded by veteran satellite and telecommunications industry veterans in 2012, Omnispace is developing a “hybrid” 5G network that would link terrestrial and space-based networks.

Backed by private equity investors, Omnispace closed a $60 million funding round in early 2021. According the website, it has so far raised $140 million in venture funding.

The company’s 5G architecture combines a constellation of non-geostationary satellites with its 2-GHz S-Band spectrum holdings that would connect to terrestrial 5G mobile networks. The proposed space-based network would employ 3GPP wireless standards to enable “direct-to-device connectivity and interoperability,” the partners said.

The hybrid network would also allow users to “transition between satellite and terrestrial [5G] networks—eliminating the need for multiple devices on multiple networks,” according to Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space.

The hybrid network is touted as delivering ubiquitous low-latency 5G connections.

Omnispace along with U.S. Navy and Marine Corps partners recently demonstrated its hybrid 5G network for the National Security Innovation Network, a program office within the Defense Department’s Innovation Unit. During the demonstration, commercial 5G devices transmitted voice and data services over an emulated 5G radio access network to an Omnispace satellite.

Along with 5G wireless services, the company said it is also targeting emerging Internet of Things connectivity.

Proceeds from its recent venture funding round will be used to secure its 2-GHz mobile satellite service and complementary terrestrial spectrum.

Omnispace said it expects the initial elements of its space-based 5G network to enter service in 2022.

“Our network will leverage harmonized 2-GHz spectrum to bring the power of 5G to users and industries around the globe,” said Ram Viswanathan, president and CEO of Omnispace.

The partnership with Lockheed Martin also seeks to fill a commercial-user gap within the growing number of communication satellite constellations such as the SpaceX Starlink and the OneWeb consortium’s low-earth orbit networks. Those systems focus primarily on internet connections and providing network links to IoT devices.

OneWeb announced a deal this week with TrustComm Inc., a provider of satellite communications for the U.S. Defense Department. The partners said they would begin offering low-latency, secure data and internet connections to government users by the end of this year.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

George Leopold has written about science and technology from Washington, D.C., since 1986. Besides EE Times, Leopold’s work has appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, and other publications. He resides in Reston, Va.

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