IEEE International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile Radio Communications
12–15 September 2022 // Virtual Conference

Tu07: 3D Wireless Networks: Connecting the Dots between Ground, Air, and Space


Prof. Giovanni Geraci (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain)

Giovanni Geraci (SM’19) is an Assistant Professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, and the coordinator of the Telecommunications Engineering program. He was previously a Research Scientist with Nokia Bell Labs and holds a Ph.D. from the UNSW Sydney. He also held research appointments at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, The University of Texas at Austin, CentraleSupelec, and Alcatel-Lucent.
He is a Distinguished Lecturer of both the IEEE Communications Society and IEEE Vehicular Technology Society. He has been serving as an Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications and IEEE Communications Letters, as the IEEE ICC’22 Wireless Communications Symposium co-Chair, and as a frequent organizer of IEEE international workshops. He has delivered around twenty tutorials, industry seminars, and workshop keynotes at top-tier IEEE conferences, and co-edited the book “UAV Communications for 5G and Beyond” released by Wiley – IEEE Press in 2020. He is also co-inventor of a dozen patents, has written for the IEEE ComSoc Technology News, and received international press coverage.
Giovanni was awarded two of the most competitive early-career fellowships in Spain: a “la Caixa” Junior Leader and a “Ramon y Cajal” Fellowship. He was named an Exemplary Reviewer for the IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications twice. He received the Nokia Bell Labs Ireland Certificate of Outstanding Achievement, the IEEE PIMRC’19Best Paper Award, and theIEEE Communications Society Outstanding Young Researcher Award for Europe, Middle East, and Africa.


This tutorial will discuss the recent advances in the realm of non-terrestrial networks, provide a digested summary of the key enabling technologies and results, and pose fundamental open questions to be addressed by the research community to make integrated ground, air, and space mobile networks come true.

Motivation and Context

Next-generation wireless networks are envisioned to break the boundaries of the current ground-focused paradigm and fully embrace aerial and spaceborne communications. In a quest for anything, anytime, anywhere connectivity, this vertical (r)evolution entails defining a new intelligently integrated network architecture and characterizing its fundamental limits. While the technological and societal implications would be of the greatest long-term significance, important hurdles must be overcome to optimally orchestrate the integrated ground-air-space mobile network of tomorrow.
In light of the unprecedented interest in this field, this one-of-a-kind tutorial blends academic and industrial views to take a holistic approach to non-terrestrial mobile communications. We will discuss:

  • Connectivity requirements for UAVs in 2030; tangible performance results and novel research questions on next-generation aerial communications in microwave, mmWave, and THz bands.
  • Fresh updates on the non-terrestrial networks within the 3GPP, including use cases and deployments, architecture, channel modeling, and technical challenges.
  • A well-grounded forecast of the potential and design challenges of the future 6G ground-air-space mobile network, jointly orchestrated for direct access, relayed fixed broadband, and IoT support.

Structure and Content

The current social, economic, and political drive to reach global wireless coverage and digital inclusion recognizes the vital role of connectivity for accessing fair education, medical care, and business opportunities in a post-pandemic world. Mobile networks have been continuously evolving to satisfy the growing wireless demand by densifying the ground infrastructure, deploying more antennas, and moving to higher frequency bands. Sadly, nearly half of the world population is still unconnected, and reaching the billions who live in rural or less privileged areas has remained a chimera for decades. Rolling out optical fibers and radio transmitters to every nook and cranny of the planet seems neither feasible nor economically viable, and a long-due true democratization of wireless connectivity will require a wholly new design paradigm.

Meanwhile in highly urbanized areas, wireless networks are the glue holding our smart cities together, and the engine driving the global economy. But even 5G will eventually fall short of satiating our appetite for mobile internet. The 2030s will bring about a hectic-paced society, where hordes of network-connected cargo-drones will navigate 3D aerial highways and autonomous air taxis will re-shape how we commute, also taking the data transfer requirements for the underpinning network to an extreme. As ground cellular deployments approach their limits in terms of densification and spectrum, reaching for the sky and embracing aerial and spaceborne communications appears as the next logical evolutionary choice.

This tutorial will discuss the recent advances in the realm of non-terrestrial networks, provide a digested summary of the key enabling technologies and results, and pose fundamental open questions to be addressed by the research community to make integrated ground, air, and space mobile networks come true.

Part I: Introducing non-terrestrial networks [60min]

  • Aerial and spaceborne network platforms [20min]
    • HAPS (airplanes, airships, balloons): Potential and engineering challenges
    • SatCom: History, orbits, and commercial constellations
    • Use cases in 5G: Service continuity, ubiquity, and scalability
  • Satellite communications within 3GPP [20min]
    • Network components, architecture, and reference scenarios
    • Channel modeling: Key features of spaceborne channels
  • Technical challenges [20min]
    • Propagation delays, Doppler shift, inter-beam frequency reuse
    • LEO cell mobility: Paging, random access, handovers, feeder link switches

Part II: UAV cellular communications from 4G to 5G and beyond [60min]

  • UAV communications within 3GPP [10min]
    • Enhanced LTE support for UAVs (Rel. 15, Rel. 16, Rel. 17)
    • 5G NR support for UAVs (Rel. 18)
  • Sub-6 GHz solutions for reliable UAV cellular support [30min]
    • Ultra-lean 5G design, initial access and mobility, massive MIMO and beyond
    • Cell-free architectures, reconfigurable intelligent surfaces, research challenges
  • mmWave and Terahertz UAV communications [20min]
    • Ray tracing and ML-based mmWave channel modeling, deployment, and coverage
    • THz UAV communications, line-of-sight MIMO in the sky, research challenges

Part III: Integrated ground-air-space mobile networks in 6G [45min]

  • UAV use cases and requirements in 2030 [10min]
    • Advanced urban mobility: cargo drones and flying taxis
    • UAV computation task offloading, high-resolution video and positioning
    • Dedicated ground networks to support aerial corridors
  •  Integrated terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks [10min]
    • Joint orchestration for direct access, relayed fixed broadband, and IoT support
  • Recent results and open research questions [15min]
    • Mobility, opportunistic traffic steering, UL/DL decoupling, multi-connectivity, …
  • Business aspects: Cost, time-to-service, market segments, showstoppers [10min]

Part IV: Recap and Q&A [15min]