Space domains

Telecommunications and navigation

Can you imagine a world without mobile phones, high bandwidth networks or cable TV? Have you ever thought what would be like to return to a daily life where you do not know when the next bus will arrive or use your phone to check the weather, see what is playing in the theatre next to you, or even buy the tickets without leaving home?

© ESA – P.Carril

Satellite Communication and Satellite Navigation play a key role in modern society. They gave us connectivity, position, and time, everywhere and all the time.

Telecommunication satellites provide connectivity in places not covered by terrestrial networks. This is one of the markets with more potential to grow. Still, operators are facing enormous challenges, as the offer is growing faster than the demand and surplus capacity becomes available for new services. These hurdles create new opportunities for new players, which can use smaller and cheaper satellites to provide connectivity that is competitive in terms of latency and speed with terrestrial networks.

Satellite Navigation may have born due to military needs, but it is now extensively used by civil society. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) started as a tool to provide position, velocity and time. After enabling services with navigation tools, it was used on deliveries, farming, aviation, maritime applications, land surveys, and many others. Now the range of applications is still expanding, and GNSS is being applied for remote sensing, atmospheric studies and space weather monitoring.

Europe has had a significant contribution to GNSS development, creating and managing Galileo, the European Global Navigation Satellite System that provides Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) information to users worldwide; and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). The latter is a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS), that provides GNSS corrections and information on its reliability for users in Europe.

The Satellite Telecommunications and Satellite Navigation mass use and their full integration in the economy made them the first examples of the Democratisation of Space.


The future brings a new generation of GNSS, more accurate, secure and reliable.

It leads to optical technologies, expected to have significant impacts on the Satellite Communication sector, enabling very high speed and secure communication. Optical communication terminals and its components will be developed and validated for inter-satellite, direct-to-ground and airborne communications. Future developments will also cover Quantum Cryptography technologies, including Quantum Key Generation and Distribution systems.

Additionally, a not so far away future holds space-based 5G.

5G is more than just the next generation of terrestrial mobile services, it promises unprecedented levels of speed, latency, network integration and massive connectivity, it will drive a convergence of fixed and mobile services, define new standards and create a network of networks, enabling “anyone and anything to be connected at anytime and anywhere”. It also expected to enable new and disrupting applications. With 5G demanding different implementation strategies, Space can and must play an important role in 5G.

Portugal’s Strategic goals

  • Promote the acquisition of competencies focusing on new fields with high potential, specifically on 5G, optical communication and encrypted quantum networks;
  • Promote the development of subsystem and system competence to increase Portuguese presence in the Space sector, focusing on technologies supporting New Space, namely flexible telecommunication payloads;
  • Identify telecom and satnav needs for different users (public entities, private operators and others, stimulating user uptake – commercial and institutional;
  • Promote SatCom integration into terrestrial networks, exploring 5G opportunities and involving Portuguese Mobile Network Operators in Space-based 5G;
  • Promote the development of downstream applications and services, focusing on telecom and SatCom;
  • Promote the use of SatCom and SatNav for maritime applications, as an enabler for “Portugal – Atlantic Nation, rich and global maritime tradition”. Extending the internet to oceans and monitoring off-shore infrastructure and vessels;
  • Promote synergies between SatCom and SatNav with space transportation, space safety and security, considering the needs and opportunities (e.g. GNSS receiver can serve as an instrument for space weather monitoring);
  • Build synergies between national-ESA-EU funding for space and other sectors.