Evolution of Non-Terrestrial Networks From 5G to 6G: A Survey

by   M. Mahdi Azari, et al.

Non-terrestrial networks (NTNs) traditionally had certain limited applications. However, the recent technological advancements opened up myriad applications of NTNs for 5G and beyond networks, especially when integrated into terrestrial networks (TNs). This article comprehensively surveys the evolution of NTNs highlighting its relevance to 5G networks and essentially, how it will play a pivotal role in the development of 6G and beyond wireless networks. The survey discusses important features of NTNs integration into TNs by delving into the new range of services and use cases, various architectures, and new approaches being adopted to develop a new wireless ecosystem. Our survey includes the major progresses and outcomes from academic research as well as industrial efforts. We first start with introducing the relevant 5G use cases and general integration challenges such as handover and deployment difficulties. Then, we review the NTNs operations in mmWave and their potential for the internet of things (IoT). Further, we discuss the significance of mobile edge computing (MEC) and machine learning (ML) in NTNs by reviewing the relevant research works. Furthermore, we also discuss the corresponding higher layer advancements and relevant field trials/prototyping at both academic and industrial levels. Finally, we identify and review 6G and beyond application scenarios, novel architectures, technological enablers, and higher layer aspects pertinent to NTNs integration.


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