We plan to introduce managed communications services into niche markets via a new service delivery model by 2018. These services will initially be targeted at managing remote assets (fixed or mobile) and facilities by providing data communications in locations currently underserved by existing communications or as an alternative to present costly systems. Once the service is suitably established, additional markets will be addressed including the capability to serve as a backup to or auxiliary for, services needed in hot-spots (e.g. cities) due to congestion problems or high costs and in providing communications to outback areas (e.g. polar regions).

Our vision exploits the capabilities of IP-based Next Generation Networks (NGN) by using the plethora of new innovative delivery platforms (IDP) as a logical extension to the traditional NGN concept which fundamentally looks at increased throughput and bandwidth across IP backbone infrastructures. The addition of these new IDPs opens up service provision to a much wider user base and creates a new eco-system that encourages new niche service providers to enter the market space.

This concept is shown the Figure 1 where these new IDPs are interconnected in various ways to form Complementary NGNs (C-NGN). These C-NGNs extend existing infrastructure reach and can be quickly established in areas where the traditional NGN is not prominent. C-NGNs also better support dynamic mobility requirements, more frequent setup and teardown communications and that require near real-time changes in network connectivity using “bearer of opportunity” criteria.


Figure 1: C-NGN Concept

Extending our operations to become a Niche Managed Service Provider (NMSP) and pioneer the provision of Niche Managed Communication Services (NMCS) over this C-NGN landscape is being guided by our incremental NMCS Programme Plan that involve a number of important project stages. Each project stage is self managed, comprises a series of phases with appropriate milestones attached and provides revenue generation opportunities. Most importantly, each Project Stage contributes one or more key capabilities essential in providing managed services over C-NGNs.

Figure provides the total C-NGN solutions architecture which comprises one or more IDP layers, the selection dependent on the specific application and coverage need.  The C-NGN is conceptually a “layered model” with each layer representing a particular IDP type. Some clients may only need local coverage (e.g. a dedicated RPAS capability) whilst other clients may need to have communications across a wider area requiring additional IDPs. The communications capability provided from each layer can be summarised as:

  • Layer 1 – Short Range Communications: Representing the RPAS scenario, this layer already exists and uses traditional LOS methods for communications to control the RPAS flight path and operation.    
  • Layer 2 – Extended Communications: Representing an extension to the RPAS scenario in the sense that BLOS capability is added as a backup or extension to the RPAS operation as flight paths and durations extend. This layer is being verified during the NEATTMaccess Project Stage where the RPAS will include the NEATTMaccess node allowing BLOS communications at L-band.
  • Layer 3 – Data Relay Communications: Representing the further extension of C-NGN coverage and multiple access by incorporating a NEATTMaccess variant node onto a HAPs platform to enable communications to be delivered across a wider coverage and to serve as a BLOS data relay when users need to communicate with an access point outside of the current coverage area. This will be subject to Study verification. Early VTOL RPAS (<20kg class) platforms have traditionally operated within LOS of the RPAS Operator. However, recent advances in technology have dramatically extended mission endurance and hence range to the extent that capabilities are now limited by communication between the operator and the vehicle. The use of NEATTMaccess to provide satellite communications capability has overcome this limitation. However, such an approach has latency and cost drawbacks if extensive use of satellite communications is needed. Therefore, the introduction of the HAPs will widen the reach of the LOS capability by serving as a relay capability for swarms of RPASs operating in a certain region and at an improved latency (when compared to traditional satellite communications). Under this scenario, reliance of conventional satellite communications is now only needed when communications have to be taken outside of the HAPs coverage. The purpose of this C-NGN Pilot Demonstration will be to prove this architecture through a real trial involving RPAS installations and a HAPs. This layer is currently the focus of an ESA ARTES-20 Programme where the intention is to enact a demonstration using RPAS and HAP IDPs. Here, the RPAS now has access to BLOS via various nodes including as a direct satellite link from the RPAS to the satellite, as a link to the HAP for wider coverage with relaying capabilities from the HAP to the satellite. The link selection will be based on preset policies that can include criteria such as lowest cost, widest coverage and latency needs.
  • Layer 4 – Direct Satellite Communications: Represents the further extension of the C-NGN through introducing low cost small satellite platforms. This serves to reduce overall communication costs and can also serve as an enhancement should HAPs operation not be required or sufficient.
  • Layer 5 – Full Satellite Communications: Represents the final interworking environment whereby further NEATTMaccess variant nodes are developed to interconnect with more traditional LEO/MEO/GEO satellites in order to provide more global coverage and improved resilience. This layer is for future study.


Figure 2: C-NGN Layering and Logical Systems Architecture

The C-NGN ground-based operational infrastructure will comprise the local Remote Access Node (RAN), Ground Access Node (GAN) and Service Operations Centre (SOC) all connected via a terrestrial Wide Area Network (WAN) configuration.