Leading UK space collaboration awarded European Space Agency contract to study the use of D band links within future 6G satellite systems

A collaborative project led by Plum Consulting, with Sussex University and mmWave experts Filtronic will study the application of extremely high frequency ‘D-band’ radio spectrum for links within future satellite systems providing 6th-generation (‘6G’) communications.

These frequencies offer a very wide bandwidth, which could support very high bitrate communications. Exploiting such high frequencies, however, presents significant engineering challenges in terms of propagation through the atmosphere, systems design and coordination with other radio services within the framework of the ITU Radio Regulations.

The contract, which will run for 18 months from October 2023, has been awarded through the European Space Agency’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme, with the support of the UK Space Agency. It will enable a greater understanding of how D-band can form a key frequency for future growth and an enabler for unearthing the benefits of 6G communications.

With the ever-increasing demand for data, this partnership is perfectly placed to deliver success due to its track record moving up the frequency spectrum for previous-generation telecommunication networks. This also follows Filtronic’s recent success with the ARTES programme, having been awarded funding to develop a technology that enables high data rate gateway links from satellites to ground stations.

Dr Richard Rudd of Plum said “Two important current trends in communications are the exploitation of ever-higher frequencies and the integration of terrestrial, aerial and satellite platforms to provide seamless connectivity. This study for ESA will quantify the opportunities and challenges involved in opening up D-band spectrum for such applications, and we’re looking forward to collaborating with the expert teams at Sussex and Filtronic in this work”.

6G is the next generation of mobile communication technologies, currently under research by our research centre aimed at providing superior wireless connectivity performance and enabling innovative applications beyond the current 5G use cases.” Said Professor Falah Ali. Professor of Communications Engineering, Sussex University. “With non-terrestrial networks expected to form a fully integrated part of 6G, this project will deliver important research and recommendations relating to the use of spectrum above 100GHz for 6G satellite communications. We are excited to work on this collaborative research project with Plum Consulting and Filtronic in shaping future standards.”

Filtronic is honoured to have been selected for this ESA project, along with Plum Consulting and Sussex University,” explained Mark Whetton, Business Development Director at Filtronic. “6G is expected to give rise to an abundance of new services while improving the capabilities of existing ones. It’s certainly an exciting movement to be a part of.”

Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “As we rely increasingly on satellite communications across all aspects of our daily lives, innovations that improve and expand the scope of these services have become an economic engine for the global space sector. This project, using Filtronic technology backed by the UK Space Agency through the ARTES programme, in partnership with Plum and Sussex, is a brilliant example of how the UK is excelling in this area; exploiting opportunities to enhance services that make our lives better and contribute to the growth of our thriving satellite communications and wider space sector.”

Plum Consulting are a leading independent consulting firm, based in London and Paris, providing engineering, scientific, regulatory and economic expertise across the telecommunications sector.

Sussex University is a leading, research-led university with a strong international reputation. The Centre of Advanced Communications, Mobile Technology and IoT (ACMI) research group conduct studies related to the development of advanced communications, mobile technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Filtronic has been at the forefront of RF technologies for 45 years. The company has developed a reputation for innovation, quality and technical knowledge and now specialises in mission critical communications for aerospace and defence, telecommunications infrastructure, space and critical communications.