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European Space Agency expands at Oxfordshire’s Harwell Campus

The European Space Agency at Harwell is embarking on an ambitious, new expansion of it’s 5G/6G Hub.

The agency is extending the facility’s satellite-enabled communications technologies and pursuing new collaborations with industry, as part of its drive to accelerate the 5G digital transformation of the European economy. ESA has selected information technology firm CGI to lead the expansion project, backed by the UK Space Agency. The project consortium includes satellite operators Eutelsat and OneWeb as well as mobile network operator Vodafone.

As the world becomes ever more connected, next generation 5G and 6G promises to empower a new wave of digital technologies and services that will change the way people live, work and communicate. The integration of communications infrastructure on the ground and in space is vital to ensure the provision of continuous, instant and ubiquitous connectivity.

Opened in February 2022 at Harwell Campus, the 5G/6G Hub – located at ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT)– enables companies to explore and realise the enormous potential of these converged networks. It currently consists of a demonstration room, a technical lab for application and service testing, and private high-capacity integrated networks which cover these spaces. Over the past year, ESA and its collaborators have already used the hub to complete numerous integration and demonstration tests, with the aim of developing new 5G solutions. The expansion project will build on this success by adding new features identified through consultation with key experts.

It will include the expansion of the hub’s dedicated networks to cover ECSAT’s surroundings, as well as the development of enhanced satellite services, edge computing, multi-network and multi-orbit orchestration, and improved ease-of-use. The project team also plans to incorporate environmental impact analysis and recommendations into the hub’s architecture.

A dedicated outreach programme will encourage engagement from both established telecommunications and space companies as well as enterprises that are new to the industry. ESA expects to announce several new opportunities for collaboration in the coming months.

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