This achievement was completed in a MediaTek lab using Rohde & Schwarz test equipment, emulating a realistic LEO satellite constellation at 600km altitude where each satellite is moving extremely fast – nearly 27,000km per hour – in orbit. The smartphone was powered by MediaTek’s NR NTN-enabled test chip connected to the test gNB by ITRI. The test chip was designed to meet the 3GPP Release 17 spectrum-defined functionality to simulate Doppler and timing variation effects by LEO satellite channels.
MediaTek is an active contributor to 3GPP Release 17 standardization work, which may help eliminate the need for traditionally bulky antennae on 5G NTN smartphones. Furthermore, solutions can leverage sophisticated 5G physical layer designs to overcome severe signal fading in time/frequency domains. Sharing the same protocol stack also allows NTN solutions to facilitate switching between cellular and satellite networks using the same device.
Bullitt is the first to use MediaTek’s 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) chipset. Proprietary software was developed to deliver an OTT satellite messaging service.
The software only uses the satellite’s link when a wifi or cellular connection is unavailable. The service connects with the user’s existing contacts to create a smooth experience when using satellite links to communicate on a cellular network. It takes about 10 seconds to connect to the satellite and send a message.
“This milestone continues MediaTek’s long track record of 5G R&D innovations,” said HC Hwang, General Manager of Wireless Communication System and Partnership at MediaTek. “With this test, MediaTek 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.”
5G NTN technology
MediaTek’s demonstration showcases how 5G NTN technology can be used for satellite communications by employing the same form factor and design components as a standard smartphone. 5G NTN technology will help boost service reliability across the globe by harnessing existing terrestrial networks and economies of scale in the cellular sector, making fast and reliable 5G connectivity much more accessible in unserved and underserved areas. In addition to the consumer use cases for expanded 5G access, there are a number of business and enterprise use cases including critical communications, transportation, agriculture, fleet and heavy machine management, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
MediaTek and Bullitt
JC Hsu, General Manager of the Wireless Communications Business Unit at MediaTek, shed some light on the partnership. “This relationship carries on our longstanding history of innovation and leadership in the formulation of the 3GPP NTN standard, which combines cellular and satellite connectivity in the same device.”
“In addition to the most recent mobile technology and the most sophisticated, highest-performing cellular connectivity features we have been working on, the 3GPP NTN effort advocates allowing device manufacturers access to satellite connectivity.”