ESA Tender – AO 1-10503 – 5G Satellite Connectivity for Commercial Off-The-Shelf Mobile Phones

Today, satellite networks for mobile services require the use of specific terminals. However, recent work is paving the way for direct-to-handheld satellite communications compatible with user devices similar to conventional mobile phones. This includes, in particular, the definition of Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN) [AD 2] [AD 3] in 5G New Radio (NR), now being standardised at 3GPP [AD 4]. From a satellite perspective, the ultimate goal is to be able to address the general population of terrestrial terminals. Nonetheless, this massive adoption will likely happen only if the integration of satcom does not affect (to the extent possible) the user equipment, in particular its bill of materials.

This activity will therefore identify the necessary adaptations across the system to enable 5G satellite connectivity in commercial off-the-shelf smartphones using the 3GPP NR NTN protocol. A key goal of the activity is to achieve this while minimising the impact to the terminal’s bill of materials. In other words, the activity will aim at adaptations that do not require adding specialised hardware to the terminal, but may rather be implemented in coming iterations of its components. To this end, the activity will consider different frequency bands especially those below 6GHz, several satellite scenarios (typically GEO/LEO), different 5G network implementations, and will take as baseline existing hardware of currently available mobile phones. The activity will first establish the most favourable scenarios to achieve this objective and then it will identify the necessary adaptations to achieve a minimum data rate (e.g., > 1 Mbit/s). The activity will provide the evidence of the space segment requirements and as well the minimal changes in the user terminal to still keep an appealing business case. Finally, a development and implementation roadmap will be produced aiming at a subsequent over-the-air demonstration.

The objective of the activity is to identify the necessary system modifications to enable 5G satellite connectivity in commercial off-the-shelf smartphones using 3GPP Non-Terrestrial Network technology.


Enabling 5G direct access from satellite to conventional mobile phones.

(This is a copy of the official text of the ESA Tender)


We are looking for partner and contributer for this project, which share a common solution and goal. Together with our partner BidBox International we will prepare and lead the proposal work.

If you are interested, please contact here or via LinkedIn.