Aerospace giant Thales has partnered with telecoms duo Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson to test and validate low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite-based 5G network technologies for mobile phones.

The testing and validation by Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm follows a recent approval by global telecommunications standards body 3GPP and will support non-terrestrial networks (NTN) for the first time according to the trio.

Thales claimed that the goal of the testing will be to validate various technology components needed to enable 5G non-terrestrial networks, including a 5G smartphone, satellite payload and 5G network pieces on the ground.

According to Ericsson, the tests could mean that its future 5G smartphones could use 5G connectivity anywhere on Earth and provide complete global coverage for wideband data services, including places normally only covered by legacy satellite phone systems with limited data connectivity capabilities. The space-based network could also be used as backup support to terrestrial networks in the event of major network outages or disasters.

Erik Ekudden, senior vice-president and chief technology officer at Ericsson, added: “This testing and validation cooperation between Ericsson, Thales and Qualcomm Technologies will be a major milestone in the history of communications, as the ultimate result could effectively mean that no matter where you are on Earth – in the middle of an ocean or the remotest forest – high-end, secure and cost-effective connectivity will be available through collaborative 5G satellite and terrestrial connectivity.”

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