Future Capability Paper - Non-Terrestrial Networks



The UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN) NTN working group, comprising of industrial and academic experts have worked during 2023 to analyse gaps and strengths in the UK NTN ecosystem and to make initial recommendations to Government, academia and industry aimed at ensuring that the UK has a strong role in this key area. 

The report examines the context in which NTN can play a part in the improvement of services in key vertical areas. The UK has a significant heritage and role in the current global satellite market, especially in the areas of satellite service provision and satellite manufacture. One of the threats brought out in a SWOT analysis is the challenge in adapting to the new direct to device markets involving manufacture of large satellite constellations. However, there is a massive opportunity in these future global markets, especially as NTN features largely in the 6G network vision. 

Transitioning from a few large GEO satellites to production line techniques for very large numbers of LEO’s will be challenging. Other threats are around the sustainability of supply lines, and in particular the reliance on overseas companies for key satellite on board semiconductors. 
The UK faces major competition in these areas from international companies that are already established in the area.

UK R&D in NTN is very reliant on ESA funding sources, while experiencing a break in EU funding due to Brexit. National funding is very limited and currently lacks coordination in the NTN area. Academic R&D resources in enabling technologies, such as wireless networking and RF are excellent but have so far been focused on mobile applications and now need to address the different challenges posed by NTN. The UK involvement in NTN standards activities has however been significant. 

The working group have organised more detailed evaluations into six key topic areas considered as fundamental to future NTN R&D.

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