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Telesat delivers the world’s first 5G backhaul demo over LEO satellite

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Global satellite operator Telesat, the Vodafone Group and the University of Surrey in the UK, have successfully accomplished the world’s first 5G backhaul demonstration deploying a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) communications satellite. This successful trial demonstrates that LEO satellites are able to provide efficient backhaul transport channels for mobile network operators (MNOs), including for 5G advanced services.


During the live test conducted by these partners in April, Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite was connected to the University of Surrey’s 5G testbed network, with the support of specialist Vodafone engineers. Vodafone also provided some funding and arranged licensing for the demonstration system.


John Miller, Head of Satellite Engineering at Vodafone, said: “The use of LEO satellites provides an additional mobile backhaul option and can be an important part of the delivery system particularly to customers in our markets who live in rural areas.”


Professor Barry Evans, University of Surrey, said: “The University of Surrey is very pleased to have participated with Vodafone and Telesat, two of the most innovative companies in their respective industries, in live 5G testing over a LEO satellite. The University’s 5G Innovation Centre has a mission to bring together leading academics and industry partners to help define and develop 5G infrastructure that will affect the way we communicate, work and live our everyday lives in the future.”


“The recent testing in which we conducted live transmissions of 4K and 8K video via Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite connected to our 5G network is a great example of how the University of Surrey is fulfilling this mission in practice. The University is proud to be part of this achievement and looks forward to continuing to support industry as we all work to unlock the potential of 5G services for the world’s mobile subscribers,” added Evans.


With the demonstration supporting video chats, web browsing and simultaneous streaming of up to 8K video, the test results revealed a network reaction time of 18-40 milliseconds, which is the lowest latency recorded for a satellite connection. The engineering team also managed to transfer 4K video to the edge of the 5G network, thus demonstrating a “key 5G future use case”.


Erwin Hudson, Vice President at Telesat LEO, said: “Providing cost effective, high performance backhaul services to MNOs seeking to extend their 4G and 5G networks is an important market for Telesat’s LEO program. Telesat is collaborating with leading customers like Vodafone, who are experts in their markets, to perform tests and demonstrations on our Phase 1 LEO satellite that help us optimize the design of our LEO system to most effectively meet their future requirements.”

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