10 Things OQ Technology Brings to Help You Use 5G NTN

Concept of Global 5G NB-IoT NTN

Yes, you may be wondering what these terms are NTN and NB-IoT and why this matters to me — Well if you are running an IoT based business then I think it is wise to read what I am about to tell you because that REALLY matters — in short: the ground is shifting, and you do not want to miss on technology!

The number of devices connecting to the internet or private networks and exchanging data is increasing fast and it is many many times greater than the number of humans using the internet (estimations forecast 24 billion devices by 2025).

The growing number of IoT devices

In the past, connecting such devices was not an issue as traditional wired and wireless technologies can address that — However with the increasing dependence on automation and big data and the high growth number of connections, it will be challenging to connect billions of devices to the network, especially when new types of inventions are entering the market like smart cars, drones, tele-medecine … etc. The answer to that is: 5G! There are two services of 5G addressing that: First is what is known as mMTC (Massive Machine Type Communications) in which the technology is made to connect easily the vast number of devices and machines, and URLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication) which is made for latency sensitivy applications (eMBB is the one for broadband such as videos, voice, online streaming, VR whih are mainly consumed by humans, not machines).

The 3 services of 5G: eMBB, mMTC, and URLLC

The Space-based IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) market is growing annually at a very fast pace (30%) and with the advances in the small satellite and small launcher industry, a new breed of IoT and M2M services through space is emerging which offers customers easy access to data and applications that were restricted before only to critical need situations and served by traditional high cost satellite solutions. The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project is an industry collaboration that manages the standards for the on-going mobile communications systems) introduced in 2019 Narrowband IoT Non-Terrestrial Network (NB-IoT NTN) as a new and different technology from New Radio NTN specifically to meet the requirements of machine small messaging over aerial and space infrastructures such as satellites in different orbits (LEO, MEO, GEO), drones, and balloons. This is because both the traditional cellular and satellite industries are coming closer to enable large-scale deployments.

Xingqin, Rommer, Euler, Yavuz, and Karlsson have summarized well the workd done by 3GPP on NTN (5G from Space: An Overview of 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Networks)

The motivation for selecting the 3GPP NB-IoT as a basis for a space based IoT solutions is due to the known good radio and service characteristics of NB-IoT compared to other technologies. These include:

1- Existing Ecosystem: Terrestrial NB-IoT is widely deployed and there is a roadmap for NB-IoT NTN in 5G.

2- Scalable: made to connect millions of devices easily and high uplink data-rates using multi-tone technology adds super scalability.

3- Unlike random access systems (LoRa, Sigfox, Aloha) used by other satellite IoT entrants, the access mechanism with contention resolutions adds further high capacity and resolves the issue of collision faced by other operators.

4- Downlink data rates are similar to uplink data rates and both are adjustable.

5- Small antennas can be used (like in a helmet, or a car, or a bag, or under and, … etc.) due to the very good link budget conditions.

6- Low power consumption.

Since 2017 when NB-IoT was first introduced in Release 13 of 3GPP, OQ Technology (www.oqtec.space) took the initiative to bring this technology into space and make 5G coverage reach the farthest points on Earth without the need to build cell towers. This is our mission and we saw from day one that this is going to be the technology for machine communication that the world will use as it is a standard technology backed up by many bodies behind and thousands and thousands of engineering hours put from research institutes, companies, chip vendors, operators, mobile users and all the member of the 3GPP to make it an unbreakable wireless technology dedicated for IoT. The challenges that we faced when we tried to bring this technology into orbit were the following:

OQ Technology has been working since 2017 on perfecting the usage of 5G NB-IoT over NTN

1- Cellular waveforms fail when the user is moving at high speeds, the highest possible speed in LTE was set to 300 Km/h (fast train) beyond that you get a physical effect called the Doppler Effect (yes, it is the same Doppler effect you studied in Physics class in highs cool that compresses or relaxes the sound waves when moving) and that effects offsets the radio frequency of the signal which makes it hard for the sender and the receiver to synchronize.

Illustration of Doppler effect on waves (adapted from Quora)

2- The cell tower is few kilometers away from a mobile user, in some cases 30 km depending on the number of users in the cell (Cell breathing: cells can relax or shrink!) so the time delay is very very small between the sender and receiver since waves travel in the speed of light — in the case of satellites, the Low Earth Orbit satellites are somehow 500 km — 600 Km away in the sky! The time delay of the signal between the sender and receiver is too long for the normal cellular system to synchronize and work.

3- The cell tower software found on base stations is not accessible (owned by companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei .. etc) and the existing commercial or research versions are made for power-hungry equipment connected to power mains or for desltop computers to be used in labs and universities — that is not suitable for a satellite that requires minimum processing and is powered by batteries and solar cells to deliver commercial service.

4- The frequencies used by cellular communication are licensed frequencies and the regulatory route to getting access to these frequencies is long and cumbersome.

5- The existing cellular IoT chips and devices are not made for satellite.

Our mission during the past 4 years was to resolve these problems and really make existing NB-IoT standard technology work on satellites, without changing the wireless waveform and standard, without modifying the existing silicon of the chips, and using mobile compatible accessible frequencies. We wrote the cell tower software in-house from scratch as there was nothing available and optimized it for a nanosatellite software-defined radio payload. Our IP is owned by us for the payload software and our patents portfolio covers how to resolve Doppler and delay issues with a 5G NTN system. With all these strong tools in hand, here is what this means for a customer using OQ Technology’s 5G NB-IoT NTN service:

How OQ enables a system to connect existing terrestrial devices to both satellite and cellular networks

Benefit 1 — Standard Technology

There is an existing ecosystem of operators, chip vendors, device manufacturers and resellers since it is based on global 5G IoT technology — So no one company has ownership of everything and if that company goes bust then you are not left alone.

Benefit 2 — Global Coverage

You can have cellular 5G IoT coverage for your assets and machines anywhere in the world and at anytime, no more dead spots and out of coverage outside urban areas.

Benefit 3 — Scalable

You can have as many devices as possible since the satellite capacity can handle millions of devices due to the two-dimensional synchronization in time and frequency, something other satellite IoT operators lack since they suffer from the physics phenomenon of traffic collisions (ask them to show you how they can connect a hundred devices, not even a thousand? It is easy to run a show of connecting 5 or 10 or even 50 devices, it is a different story to connect 100, 1000, 1000 000 devices).

Benefit 4 — Uplink and Downlink

Look around — Most existing satellite IoT operators offer simplex service (uplink only) — Users need also a downlink to upgrade the devices firmware, or to send commands to control a drone or to shut down an oil valve that is leaking. We can do that with our 5G NB-IoT NTN service.

Benefit 5 — High bitrate and Large Messages

NB-IoT technology offers the feature of single-tone and multi-tone waveforms — meaning you can combine multiple tones (just like music notes) to get the best data bitrate or message that fits your need. What best is: All this is dynamically variable — the satellite and user terminals can adjust to your need to make use of as much as possible of the expensive licensed spectrum: you can do data transfer, large files transfers, even voice or low resolution images and videos; something that other existing IoT operators cannot reach - I mean come on: We can reach 30 kbps — 60 kbps at good conditions and they do 500 bps (this is 60 times smaller!), their message size might be good for sending a location for tracking a shipment or a sending a temperature point, but the applications are limited and cannot go beyond that. With OQ Technology you can do much more and your narrowband applications are unlimited.

Benefit 6 — Access to Licensed Frequencies

You do not need to worry about the regulatory aspect, we took care of it and you can already use the service — the reliability and quality of service is high since they are licensed protected bands. Do not fall victim to the unlicensed frequency band operators, these bands may work in a limited area on Earth (like 50 Km radius) but will stagger and suffer in orbit since they will see the interference from a larger footprint, and they are not protected. Also, there is not much of available quiet spectrum there to communicate with a large number of devices.

Benefit 7 — Low Power Consumption

The technology ensures low power consumption for your device, in line with the 3GPP recommendations — so a battery-powered device can work for years without recharging, and if you have an energy harvesting add-on (like solar cells) then you can even last longer.

Benefit 8 — Use Existing Hardware

Existing compatible NB-IoT chips from partners should work with our satellite system, no need to change the silicon, no need to create a new chip or make a new hardware — so this reduces the cost of ownership immensly.

Benefit 9 — Low Cost

Since you do not need to worry about buying a satellite module but rather use same existing cellular chip, and as we use nanosatellites that are 300 times cheaper than existing GEO satellites to deploy the service — the price of hardware and service is much cheaper than existing satellite connectivity service — Goodbye to the traditional expensive price tag of satellite communication.

Benefit 10 — High QoS and Customer Service

Since we build the payload software ourselves and know how to make 5G work over NTN, we are flexible in optimizing the service to meet our clients requirements and their traffic — think of other operators who outsource the IP development and have no control over it: How painful and time and money consuming it will be to roll out new software updates that may work for one customer but not the other? If a company is not vertically integrated at least in the core IP, there will be a long road of troublesome customer service and after sale maintenance, especially at a large scale of deployment of millions of devices — and enterprise customers who worked with operators that bring no value in terms of technology know exactly what I am talking about. We will dedicate a future blog to address the difference between working with an operator that has control over its cellular 5G technology and Ip compared to an operator who outsources or buys ready core IP.

I hope these reasons are enough to show you the incredible value of 5G NB-IoT over NTN — Can you think of more advantages? If yes, tell us more or write us (omar.qaise@oqtec.space) directly to learn more about our innovative product and service.

10 Benefits of Using Our Service



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