Filtronic advances 5G network connectivity via satellite tech

ESA and Filtronic is developing spacefaring hardware.

By Shubhangi Dua,
Published by Interesting Engineering, 26 September 2023

In collaboration with the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency, a British electronics company is developing spacefaring hardware to boost 5G network connectivity.

In an ambition to devise advanced technology that empowers next-generation satellite constellations in delivering high-speed broadband internet coverage, a UK-based electronics specialist firm – Filtronic, is developing spacefaring hardware.

Filtronic is working in collaboration with ESA and the UK Space Agency to advance the 5G digital transformation of society and industry, a public statement by the ESA said.

Antonio Franchi, Head of ESA’s 5G/6G Programme, stated:

“ESA is proud to partner with Filtronic on a project that will apply the company’s excellent commercial capabilities to advance the digital transformation of society and industry, achieved through the development of hybrid satellite 5G networks.”

5G digital transformation in motion

The European Space Agency (ESA) reported ten days ago that the company strives to establish rapid, high-capacity connections between communications satellites in low Earth orbit and ground stations designed for reception.

These low Earth orbit satellite constellations are imperative for the next generation of 5G, and 6G converged networks as they boost the communication systems on the ground. This allows the functioning of fast and widespread internet connections that work instantly.

ESA explained that telecommunications satellites provide connectivity by receiving and sending data via radio waves, with different parts of the radio spectrum having contrasting capabilities in speed, data volumes, and capacity.

Additionally, the firm’s technological advancements operate over extremely high-frequency bands, known as millimeter waves, which deliver wide bandwidths, high data rates, and low latencies over localized areas.

Such advancing 5G network technologies can potentially evolve key applications such as autonomous transport, the Internet of Things, and industrial automation.

Stimulating commercial innovation

In the past, Filtronic has demonstrated its ability to develop millimeter wave products for terrestrial communications. 

Therefore, ESA teamed with the firm to develop ESA’s Space for 5G and 6G Programme, which falls under ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program. According to the space agency’s statement, ESA hopes to stimulate commercial innovation and foster European and Canadian leadership in the fiercely competitive global satcom marketplace.

Paul Bate, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, stated: 

“As we rely increasingly on satellite communications across all aspects of our daily lives, innovations that improve and expand the scope of these services have become an economic engine for the global space sector.”

Tudor Williams, Director of Technology at Filtronic, articulated that a contract with Filtronic could pave the way for the space agency to gear the core technology towards the low Earth orbit market.

“Satellite operators are increasingly turning to frequencies that deliver ultra-high bandwidth data links, and Filtronic is uniquely positioned to adapt existing products, manufactured in commercial volumes, for the specific requirements of space,” said Williams. 

Through the ARTES program, ESA’s affiliation with Filtronic strives to secure a leading position in this dynamic and growing sector.

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