MVA 5G on the moon

Research plays a crucial role in the iterative process of building and improving technology. Kenya Space Agency (KSA) is currently involved in a number of different research projects in multiple fields and departments. Research is an effective tool used by organizations to build awareness of the possibilities that lie in-front of us whilst developing a knowledge base. It is a perpetual process that keeps us up to date with the new developments in our respective fields as we seek out opportunities to contribute whilst improving our own systems and also build capacity within the organization and in our stakeholders too.

As the title "5G on the moon" suggests, this article is going to have its center of focus in the telecommunications field. We are exploring the possibilities on what kind of networks we could implement on a human settlement/habitat on the moon. Before that, let us first take a brief moment to understand what the moon village association is.

Moon Village Association

The moon village association is an international forum registered as an NGO in Vienna, Austria. The organization has an interest in the colonization and habitation of the moon. Their conversations generally revolve around the systems and technologies needed to support biological life and development on the moon. The MVA has over 600 participants in the research that span over 50 countries and 33 institutional members. MVA has taken on an all inclusive approach in its operations promoting the collaboration of all sorts of countries and organizations moving towards a shared vision. They are creating international, national and regional networks to engage civil society around the world. MVA partners with both space and non-space organizations to promote international discussions and formulation of plans to foster the implementation of the Moon Village. Learn more about MVA.

MVA has split the travel towards the moon from earth into 6 different zones. For convenience sake, we will use the diagram below to briefly illustrate and explain this. However there are more detailed documents containing research done by the MVA pertaining the different zones and systems concepts which are available on their website.  

5G on the moon MVA
Moon Village Association, zone 1 - 6 diagram
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In this document MVA splits the journey towards habitation of the moon into zones 1 through to 6, having zone 1 on the moon and zone 6 on earth. This journey starts from launching the vehicle from earth into zone 6 to landing on the moon and exploring its surface and the dark craters in zone 1 - 3. Though out this journey through the zones, fast and reliable telecommunication will be of high importance.  

5G architecture

The leading network standardizing body that brought us the previous generations of mobile networks (2G to 5G) is the third generation partnership project (3GPP). 3GPP creates documents generally known as releases where a detailed description of a technology is documented. This generally contains its features, functionality, architecture, specifications and component descriptions. European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) is also a European non profit organization partnered with 3GPP that creates standards for 5G and also has great resources on the 5G system architecture.

In this research project, we used the 3GPP specifications as a guide to the study on how 5G (5th generation) networks may be used on the moon. The documentation on 5G networks by ETSI was also of great benefit in support of this study. 

With the substantial jump in the bandwidth offered by 5G, a bottleneck has been relieved in communication within technologies. This has given its users access to possibilities to support or improve new development and innovation of technologies both industrial and consumer based. A study on how 5G has been implemented may be the first logical step towards creating a vision of how 5G may be used on the moon. On earth 5G has been used to support voice and data services on mobile phones. Due to its low latency and high bandwidth we see it has been used to on massive IOT networks and autonomous vehicle networks which also hints at machine learning / artificial intellignce and consequently big data. It also support high quality live video as well as supporting the use of augmented/virtual reality. 

Many of its uses cases on earth can also be tailored and replicated on the moon. 5G networks can support massive IOT implementations for example, this could be a large group of automated mining robots in a mine for example. The use of high quality live video may also prove to be useful in fields such as exploration of the moon and remote medical procedures such as a surgery on the moon.

In comparison to its predecessor, 5G has its area of focus on the improvement on the Radio side of the network, the last mile connection between the user equipment and the radio towers. 5G improves the transmission speed and reduces the communication latency allowing for an increase in the capacity of devices that can be serviced in a given area.

Below is a diagram describing the 5G network architecture.

5G architecture
5G network architecture

- The user equipment would need to be any sort of 5G enabled device that can connect to the 5G Radio access network (RAN). These devices support multiple antennas and can communicate with multiple other transceivers concurrently efficiently ensuring seamless handoff and a higher quality of service (QoS). 

- The user equipment (UE), a 5G enabled device connects to the Radio Access Network (RAN), a transceiver wirelessly through the air interface. The air interface is the major improvement that 5G has over 4G. 5G base stations support multiple antennas, this technology is know as massive MIMO (multiple input multiple output) which allows for efficient utilization of the air interface. The 5G base stations are also able to target and direct their radio waves to the UE.

-The access and mobility management function (AMF) will then be used to grant the UE access into the core network via the AMF. The AMF authenticates the UE via the authentication server function(AUSF) in conjunction with the Unified data management (UDM) which handles the subscriber data along with their authentication credentials.

The AMF then handles the UE registration, connectivity and reach-ability, mobility management or handoff between receivers to ensure optimal signal strength and capacity management. The SMF will then manage the session for the UE once it is on the 5g network by handling some important function such as handling the ip address allocation and management for the UE.

-The Application Function(AF) interacts with the core network to grant service provision. It is used in conjunction with the policy control function (PCF) to create policies that govern the network behaviour and traffic routing.

 It is important to note that this is just quick description of the 5G system architecture. If you are interested in the details of the 5G system architecture you may follow the links to attached at the end of this document.

5G waves
5G radio bands

5Gs air interface can be split into 3 groups of bands of frequencies. As seen in the diagram above the categories are Low-band, mid-band and high-band. These bands are separated by the frequency bands they use. It is important to note that as the frequency the wave increases, the wavelength decreases. The wave therefore becomes more susceptible to reflection and refraction. Waves with lower frequencies are able to travel through walls but high frequency waves will not be able to. They are also more prone to experience attenuation meaning they have a smaller area of coverage. This means the waves are not able to traverse around or through obstacles. The High-band 5G mmWave therefore offers a much higher data rate but a small area of coverage. A mix of the different bands can be used to ensure the network is practical for the different use-cases and environments.

The diagram below shows us a simple 5G network implementation we could have on the moon. This shows us the multiple kinds of end users a network can possibly support. The UE need not be limited to mobile phones only. 

5G network
5G network example

As per the example above the small cell transceivers may support the 5G high-band while the 5G macro supports the 5G mid-band and low-band. This is however just an example of one theoretical network design that may be used to create and an effective network on the moon. There as still multiple nuances of a 5G network that may used in the actual implementation of a 5G network on the moon.

references and resources
  • https://spectrum.ieee.org/3gpp-release-15-overview
  • https://www.etsi.org/deliver/etsi_ts/123500_123599/123501/15.03.00_60/ts_123501v150300p.pdf
  • https://moonvillageassociation.org/
  • https://www.qualcomm.com/news/onq/2019/06/20/how-5g-massive-mimo-transforms-your-mobile-experiences