From Space to the Farm, RF Advancements Fuel New 5G Applications

While the researchers were discussing The benefits of 5G for everyday users and urban d douseam settings, emerging radio frequency (RF) technologies are opening new doors beyond gaming and autonomous vehicles. Companies are now exploring how mmWave’s hardware and infrastructure can increase production in both the agricultural and aerospace sectors.

Leveling the playing field for rural customers

With rough 83% of Americans live in cities, carriers are encouraged to introduce connectivity technologies in these more congested areas. MmWave technology typically supports speeds of around 5Gbpsbut congestion in cities has limit these speeds to 1.1 Gbps in cities like Chicago. Accordingly, carriers in congested areas must compromise between speed and coverage. This problem is evaporating in rural areas – where consumers are few, the bandwidth is abundant and the views are clear.

Partnership between Qualcomm and 5G RuralDorset offer these capabilities to more rural users than ever before. As part of the DCMS 5G Test-Leeds and Trials Program, Qualcomm is supplying 5G mmWave modules for the agricultural project. Ultimately, the goal is to connect multiple robots to high-frequency networks, in tandem, while forming a data pipeline.

The sensors can measure moisture levels, nutrition and fertilizers.

Smart farming

“Smart farming” usually refers to the collection of data from sensors used to improve traditional agricultural practices. Image courtesy of Carritech

In addition, the sensors facilitate the collection of climate data – which is crucial for the successful navigation of the growing seasons. 5G modems will live in these IoT devices. Fast connectivity allows devices to upload data seamlessly and accurately. It is hoped that 5G devices will support technologies such as MIMO, networking and new small cell towers.

Qualcomm will continuously test the performance of its Snapdragon SoC in tandem with its 5G modems. Researchers hope that robots can work together. Investing in modem development can also reduce both unit costs and battery consumption.

5G plus satellite power

While 5G infrastructure is needed on the ground, both Lockheed Martin and Omnispace explore the space development of the network. The duo asked a simple question: what if we could complement terrestrial 5G with non-terrestrial infrastructure?

It may sound like something ingrained in science fiction, and execution is anything but simple. However, the two strongly believe in the potential benefits – mainly seamless connectivity, regardless of global location. The proposed network will use a collection of satellites along with existing 5G hardware on earth. Omnispace provides its 2GHz S-frequency spectrum, complying with 3GPP standards.

Visual image of the satellite constellation of Lockheed Martin

Image of the satellite constellation Lockheed Martin. Image courtesy of Omnispace

Although theoretically useful to all, the 5G Earth Network (NTN) project focuses on commercial and civil applications.

Opening the door for futuristic communications

Collaboration between NASA and Northrup Grumman serves as proof of the concept of space-based 5G. The aerospace company’s SharkSat technology is an integrated communication device – useful for capturing electronic telemetry data during space flight. As early as January, Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft served as a two-week test field for this technology.

The SharkSat device during preparation

The SharkSat device during preparation. Image courtesy of NASA

SharkSat broadcasts information on board operators on the ground. The ultimate goal is to develop Ka-Band, a software-defined radio (SDR). Communications with this electromagnetic frequency do not suffer from interference or performance degradation. Transmission speeds are hundreds of times faster than those of the current bandwidth.

The maturation of SharkSat also remains an interesting endeavor for EE, as it relies on advanced receivers, integrated circuits and multiprocessors. Reliability and energy consumption are the main areas of focus.

Finally, Northrop Grumman expects the new 5G communications to come from SharkSat – both space-to-space and space-to-earth.

This is possible initiatives such as 5G Open RAN will increase spectrum efficiency by connecting devices to cloud-based network resources and expanding access to this protocol. What surprised you about the introduction of 5G last year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.