ESA Launches Call for Participation in World’s First In-Orbit 6G Lab

May 15, 2023

Written by Caio Castro
Network Satellite Data Exchange Earth Space
CATEGORY: Exclusives

The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a call for companies and institutions interested in building the world’s first in-orbit 6G laboratory.

According to ESA, the selected players will develop an in-orbit experiment where institutions can test, validate, and measure technologies and techniques that will be key for the role of satellites in 6G networks.

The techniques include AI-assisted dynamic spectrum allocation, dynamic service-based resource management, self-optimised air interface, and characterisation of sub-THz transmission performance.

ESA will also look at novel technologies such as neuromorphic processors, sub-mm-Wave radio frequency equipment and antennas, cognitive radios, software-defined radios, and software-defined payloads.

“This will be an open orbit laboratory where different companies can contribute to the development, integration, and launch of [6G] satellites,” explained Antonio Franchi, Head of ESA’s 5G/6G Programme, at the recent 6GSymposium. Watch his full speech here.

“[After the lab is built] Satellite network operators, mobile network operators, industry vendors, test equipment vendors can join and contribute to test and develop some of the blocks of the 6G new standards in space,” he added.

The laboratory will receive €8 million in funding and is expected to focus on LEO.

6G on the Horizon

Among the outcomes of the lab, ESA is expecting:

  • An established open innovation laboratory ready to interact with satellite & terrestrial R&D groups,
  • SLA for 6G satellite laboratory maintenance (onboard software/firmware development) and open innovation laboratory engineering support during the lifetime,
  • To demonstrate the benefits of satellite in the context of 6G use cases, based on hands-on/real-world experience,
  • To provide inputs to 3GPP to support future standard releases for 6G NTN based on seamless integration and interoperability between terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks,
  • And to identify further technology development needs for 6G.

In addition, the lab will provide inputs to standardisation bodies and the European 6G development roadmap.

According to ESA, no particular frequency bands are specified. However, the agency sees S- (2-4 GHz), C-(4-8 GHz), Ka (26-40 GHz) and W-band (75-110 GHz) as the first candidates to explore.

Institutions and companies can submit their interest by June 30th here. The results will be released on September 2nd.

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