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5GRuralDorset Leads World in 5G Satellite Backhaul Research

Nathan Woodley
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World firsts are rare.

Yet for the second time in recent months, the 5GRuralDorset project has found itself at the cutting edge of telecommunications research.

Having bagged the top spot in three categories at Connected Britain, the now multi-award-winning project has gone on to demonstrate satellite backhaul from a 5G standalone network – the only known example of this in the world.

Connected through a satellite link back to the Satellite Application Catapult’s core network in Westcott, two sites in Portland now benefit from both a satellite and terrestrial connectivity. When one becomes unavailable, the other steps in, providing a resilient and robust connection.

High network availability is particularly important for emergency services. Remote regions like Dorset have traditionally had less coverage than more densely populated areas. In some instances, this has caused a digital divide between the connected and non-connected members of the community. But for services like the police, ambulance, and coastguard, maintaining a connection to locate the vulnerable can be the difference between life and death.

Excelerate Technology, world leading telecommunications specialists and close collaborators with the Catapult, supplied the satellite network. Excelerate has been providing connectivity ecosystems that underpin technologies for over twenty years, helping to connect individuals and organisations in areas of low or no coverage.

Panos Mystridis, 5G Network Software Engineer at the Catapult said, “During this demonstration, we have proved that satellites can be integrated successfully within the 5G ecosystem. By fine tuning the various 5G components the specificities of the satellite links have been addressed, and the Portland radio sites remain connected and continue providing 5G services to end-user devices. 

The setup in Dorset is a great starting point for researching more complex and advanced scenarios over the use of satellite networks. Not only is this good for understanding backhaul link characteristics, but it also enables us to look ahead for the next generation of direct communication between satellite and 5G end user devices.

Bethan Evans, Operations Director for Excelerate, said: “We have been providing connectivity contingency via satellite for many years now, it’s at the heart of everything we do. Levelling up regional economies is very high on the Government agenda and having robust and reliable connectivity needs to be the foundation for that.

This project further underlines that achieving satellite redundancy is vital for communications in remote areas such as Dorset.”