GNSS and beyond 5G webinar recap: key takeaways and recording

Missed our webinar? Do not worry. Watch the recording of our event and find out how to explore synergies between GNSS and 5G.

On the 12th March 2021 we had the opportunity to partner with many GNSS and 5G stakeholders, presenting a webinar on positioning with GNSS and 5G. Organized by ESA and GMV, its participants included research centres, academic institutions, representatives from the mobile, space, and automotive industry.

We talked through two sessions, covering ESA´s EGEP 107 / GINTO5G project results, and finally how the transition from 5G to 6G will look like and what will be the role of satellite component in networks for 2030. The GINTO5G project, funded by ESA’s European GNSS Evolution Programme (EGEP), is being is executed by a consortium composed by GMV, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), DLR, u-blox and Telefonica I+D.

In short, this webinar covered the performance of hybrid positioning based on GNSS and 5G, both from field measurements campaign and simulation tests, showcased dissemination of GNSS corrections, and included a panel on PNT around 2030.

Here are some takeaways from the webinar:

1. GNSS and 5G are perfect companions when aiming at achieving ubiquitous accurate positioning 

We are currently living through a time of digital revolution. This throws up important breakthroughs and 5G is one of the standout examples. The potential of this state-of-the-art wireless technology is huge; it offers countless advantages for a whole host of sectors. But it poses big challenges too and the space sector in particular can help to overcome them.

Satellite-navigation systems come into their own here. Precise positioning will boost the capabilities of 5G and its subsequent upgrades. GINTO5G field trials performed with 5G waveforms demonstrated noteworthy performance: in the indoor area tests the total horizontal  positioning error is better than 3m at 95% confidence level; for the tests carried out in outdoors, when fusing GNSS and 5G, we observed an horizontal positioning error better than 2m at 95% confidence level. For the outdoor tests, as expected, the hybrid positioning approach based on GNSS and 5G performed better than either GNSS or 5G when assessed in standalone mode. For indoor tests, a comparison between hybrid GNSS-5G positioning and GNSS/5G in standalone was not possible due to inability to track GNSS signals.

2. Development of a GNSS-5G system level simulator

Today, it is very difficult to test many of 5G positioning techniques directly in the field as positioning signals are not common on deployed public networks. Besides the field measurements, EGEP programme funded the development, validation, and testing of a system level simulator for hybrid positioning. It includes three main modules: GNSS systems simulator, New Radio simulator aligned to 3GPP methodology used for assessing 5G positioning, and a third module, which integrates and fuses the two. This simulator reduces the need for physical tests, is faster, less expensive, provides enough insights into the underlying physics, and allows assessing more configurations than what is possible in the field.

3. Timing information is becoming more and more important for 5G

5G spectrum, communication features based on coordinated transmission, and application (e.g. positioning services) have transformed the need for time synchronization more critical in 5G. According to ZTE, one of the global leaders in telecommunication, GNSS continues to be the best positioned to provide accurate time information traceable to UTC to Primary Reference Time Clocks (PRTC) and base stations in mobile networks.

4. Transition to 6G is underway

The 5G rollout has barely started, but mobile industry and academia begin building a vision for the next generation of wireless communication systems (6G) – see The Next G Alliance in the U.S. and Canada or the Hexa-X project in Europe. Furthermore, the European Commission has proposed a 900 million euro budget to invest in 6G research, with particular attention to standardization leadership, and boosting 5G deployment.

The broad purpose of industry is to understand which are the emerging use cases and which technologies can identify 6G networks. For this purpose, the workshop included an entire session focused on the transition from 5G to 6G, looking at aspects such as connected and autonomous driving, cybersecurity, integration of satellite and terrestrial networks, and new technological enablers for improved positioning services. It can be concluded that all speakers believe that network-based positioning will continue to improve on a number of dimensions: radio technology (new frequency bands), architecture (integration of a satellite component into terrestrial networks), and performance (~10 cm by 2030).

5. Eye-opening findings

We asked all participants two questions about PNT in 2030 and we found:

  • 42% of respondents think that positioning accuracy in mobile networks will improve to below 0.1m by the end of this decade, and 35% of respondents believe the positioning accuracy it will improve to below 1m.
  • Majority of respondents (86%) believe the priority of 6G positioning services should be directed to indoor areas. When it comes to options for implementation of the positioning services, a perfect tie emerged between public and private network architectures for positioning services: 43% of the participants believe that public networks are better suited to offer adequate positioning services, while 43% of the respondents believe that private networks for positioning should be prioritised.

6. 3GPP organization is key for the evolution of network based positioning and integration of satellite component (for navigation and communication) into global communication standards.

3GPP is an engineering organization that develops technical specifications for communication technologies which in turn are transposed into standards by the seven regional Standards Setting Organisations (SSOs) that form the 3GPP partnership (ETSI, ATIS, etc.). Since early 2017, ESA’s 5G Navigation Task Force, under European Commission delegation through the H2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation in Satellite Navigation (HSNAV), took the initiative to shape the support of high-accuracy positioning services based on GNSS in 4G and 5G networks by active participation to 3rd Generation Partnership Project forum. Positioning studies have become more common in recent LTE and NR releases, and we expect this pattern will continue over the current decade. As a result, ESA will continue to participate in the 3GPP specification process in order to promote the inclusion of EGNSS systems intothe vision for mobile network positioning around year 2030.

Wrap up

The webinar was attended by a diverse group of experts from all around the world. The majority of attendees are from Europe, with the remainder from North America, Asia, and Africa. We discovered that a high proportion of participants remained involved until the conclusion of the event. 60% of the attendees remained connected for the entire session, 23% assisted between 1 hour and 2 hours, and the remaining 17% assisted for less than 1 hour.

Participants asked live questions during the webinar and showed interest in

  • What are the time synchronization requirements at Primary Reference Time Clock and Baseband Units (BBU) and how is the synchronization achieved.
  • What are the differences between different releases of New Radio from a PNT standpoint.
  • What are best practices in disseminating GNSS corrections via LTE and NR positioning protocols: User Plane or Control Plane.

The pie chart from below show the participants distribution by industry. The results show that the Defence and Space industry is the best represented, with 27% of all participants having affiliation in this industry. The University/Education is next in ranks with 17% of representation while GNSS industry, mobile industry, researchers, etc. exhibit similar representation, between 10% - 13%.

This was a great webinar that offered useful information for anyone interested in understanding positioning based on 5G and GNSS.

The recording of the workshop can be replayed here.