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Chinese New Infrastructure Project: Internet Satellite

China has always been eyeing at Elon Musk, nowadays the richest man in the world. His business empire has also made the Chinese government longing. After years of heavy investment, one of China's New Infrastructure Projects, the Internet Satellite, has formed its shape. How far will it go? What does the future hold for China's aerospace projects? Will China again lead in 6G development? Let's together find out in today's article.

In recent years, the high-throughput satellite technology characterized by the high-frequency band, multi-beam, and frequency multiplexing has gradually matured. This technology has increased the satellite communication rate by more than 10 times. Driven by new technologies, significant changes are taking place in the field of traditional satellite communications, and satellite Internet represented by low-orbit high-throughput satellite constellations is gradually emerging. The altitude of low-orbit satellites is lower than that of geosynchronous orbits, which makes the transmission delay of low-orbit satellites shorter and the path loss smaller.

In terms of communication accessibility and real-time performance, its advantages of "low latency", "reliable transmission," and "global coverage without dead ends" are becoming a new option to solve the information gap in the global network. It provides favorable timing and conditions and accelerates the whole society to move toward the era of digital communication.

China has permanently attached great importance to the construction of space infrastructure and has become the fifth country to send satellites into space independently, the third country to master satellite recovery technology, and the fifth country to independently develop and launch geostationary communication satellites. According to public data from the Satellite Database, as of June 2022, China has more than 540 satellites in orbit.

On January 8, 2023, at the main forum of the "2023 CAICT ICT+ In-depth Observation Report Meeting" hosted by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (hereinafter referred to as "CAICT"), the deputy director of the Institute of Technology and Standards of CAICT and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Wireless, and Mobile, Wan Yi pointed out that by 2027, China's satellite communication terminal market will reach 1.02 billion US dollars. In 2020, this scale was 457.94 million US dollars, accounting for 8.54% of the global satellite communication terminal market.

Satellite Internet Construction Based on Low-orbit Satellites

In recent years, China has actively accelerated the construction of satellite Internet based on low-orbit satellites. By the end of 2021, China will have more than 400 registered and effectively operating commercial space companies; The scale of investment and financing is expected to exceed 10 billion yuan.

China's low-orbit communication satellite constellation construction plan started relatively late but has steadily advanced recently. On March 5, 2022, the 02 batches of mass-produced satellites of Yinhe Aerospace Corporation (Galaxy Space) were launched into orbit by the Long March 2C carrier rocket at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

The satellite has completed a number of satellite Internet application verifications, including the first fusion test of domestic low-orbit broadband communication satellites and 5G private networks. The industry believes this test has taken an essential step in constructing China's star-ground integrated network.

It is worth noting that in the past two years, policies supporting the development of commercial aerospace and satellite Internet have been released more and more intensively. In 2021, China's "14th Five-Year Plan" pointed out that building a global coverage and efficient operation of communication, navigation, and remote sensing space and infrastructure facility systems is necessary.

In 2022, the State Council issued the "14th Five-Year" Digital Economy Development Plan, which proposed actively and steadily promoting the evolution and upgrading of spatial information infrastructure, accelerating the deployment of satellite communication networks, and promoting the construction of satellite Internet.

In this regard, Gao Qi, an associate professor at the Law School of Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and director of the Satellite and Navigation Law Center, said that, on the whole, China's satellite Internet industry has entered a period of accelerated layout and catching up with the orbit. The top-level construction of satellite Internet should be strengthened from the national level. Planning and traction give full play to the advantages of the new nationwide system, encourage state-owned enterprises and private commercial aerospace enterprises to participate together, and strengthen international cooperation and overseas landing.

Mobile Phone Direct Connection Accelerates Satellite-ground Communication Integration.

The popularization of mobile phone direct-to-satellite technology also points to 5G's next-generation evolution technology - 6G.

As the direct connection of mobile phones has become the standard configuration of flagship models of smartphone giants, the satellite communication industry has also opened up new markets. According to the source, terrestrial mobile network operators use satellites to supplement terrestrial cellular networks. With an increase of US$400 billion in revenue, the total annual income of 800 operators worldwide can be increased by 40%. And because the system can directly reuse the network infrastructure on the ground, this will not increase the infrastructure construction costs of the ground mobile network operators.

According to public information, as of now, in addition to Apple and Huawei, mobile communication giants such as AST, lynk, and ZTE are actively carrying out research and product development on direct communication between mobile phones and satellites.

And just on January 6, 2023, Qualcomm also announced a partnership with the veteran satellite communications giant Iridium to allow smartphone users to send and receive information via satellite when regular cellular networks cannot be connected. Qualcomm said it expects the communications technology, called Snapdragon Satellite, to be launched in the second half of 2023 when several smartphones will be on the market.

Among them, represented by the Huawei Mate50 series, supporting Beidou's short messages, has once again made the satellite communication industry a step closer to the growth of the consumer market.

According to the "White Paper on the Development of China's Satellite Navigation and Location-Based Service Industry 2022", it is pointed out that with the launch of mass mobile phones with Beidou-3 short message communication capabilities, it is expected that mobile phones can achieve "NO extra SIM card, NO another mobile phone number, and NO additional equipment." to enjoy Beidou's short message and mobile communication services at the same time.

In this regard, Li Xiayu, deputy chief engineer of the Standards Institute of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, suggested that China should give full play to China's leading advantages in 5G technology and industrial development, carry out research on satellite Internet and 5G/6G fusion technology, and promote the construction of a satellite Internet standard system for space-ground integration, accelerate the research and development of satellite Internet products integrated with 5G/6G, support the evolution of a new generation of mobile communication technology characterized by satellite Internet, and promote the large-scale and global development of satellite Internet.

Challenges Still Exist, the Application Side Is Still the Main Position

It is estimated that by 2025, China's satellite Internet capacity demand will be at least 1428.1Gb-ps, and the number of users will be 794,300. However, due to the fact that the development of the application side has not formed a real industrial chain and the development of 5G is less than expected, the future development of 6G in China is still in its infancy.

Relevant industry insiders suggest that China should strengthen research on the market, business, industry, individual, and national application needs, innovate new network architecture, new business needs, new application scenarios, and new application models, and launch China's own low-level Satellite terminal equipment with low cost, low power consumption, multi-spectrum, standardization, and miniaturization that implements satellite-ground network integration and satellite-ground network applications.

According to Liu Wenqing, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, in the development of China's aerospace industry, satellite platforms are at the top international level. Its payloads and instruments closely follow those of foreign countries, but there is a big gap with foreign countries regarding satellite data applications. "Cutting-edge and key technologies cannot be bought, and China's most important equipment cannot be imported. Without technological independence, there will be no economic independence, and there will be no policy independence. Only by making technical reserves in advance will it be possible to achieve technological leadership in the future and make real achievements." he said.


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