Key features of satellite communications such as wide-scale coverage, broadcast/multicast support and high availability, together with significant amounts of new satellite capacity coming online, anticipate new opportunities for satellite communications services as an integral part within upcoming 5G systems. To materialize these opportunities, satellite communications services have to be provisioned and operated in a more flexible, agile and cost-effective manner than done today. In this context, this paper describes a solution for the virtualization and dynamic orchestration of satellite communication services that builds on the introduction of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) technologies within the satellite ground segment systems. Along with the description of the main system architecture traits, the flowchart of a general procedure for the dynamic instantiation of virtualized satellite networks on top of a SDN/NFV-enabled satellite ground segment system is provided. The paper also presents experimental results for the dynamic customization of satellite network services through the implementation of a set of virtualized satellite network functions that can be orchestrated over general purpose open virtual platforms.
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