Analysing the Role of Satellite and Ground Network Infrastructure in the Connected and On-demand World – A Recap
In September 2021, experts from the satellite industry came together to discuss the role of satellite in the future network of networks. The panel covered a wide variety of topics ranging from the integration of satellite into 5G, to developments regarding multi-orbit satellite capabilities, and the vertical integration happening within the satellite operators’ industry.
The panel started with a discussion on the growing importance of satellites in future terrestrial networks, broadcast media and remote connectivity, and why there is an increasing urgency for the successful integration of satellites into these markets.
Aarti Holla-Maini, Secretary General at ESOA (EMEA Satellite Operators Association), outlined why the role of connectivity has been growing increasingly over the last two years: “Thanks to the pandemic, the needs of users are really taking the central stage. I think that plays very well to the strength of satellite. In recent years, digital policymakers focused almost solely on 5G. The digital divide was seen as a long term stretch target within development policies – you had digital policy on one side and development policy somewhere else. Finally, with the realisation that any decent level of connectivity is so closely tied to people’s livelihoods, children’s education and our general wellbeing – the ability to just be in touch with each other – there is real pressure on making sure 5G has maximum reach and that is impossible without satellite.”
There have been various developments recently that allow the satellite industry to expand their role and extend their reach globally. “I think we have to observe that satellite on its own has a lot of benefits, but they also have a lot of cons. Similarly, terrestrial technologies have many benefits, but they don’t provide ubiquitous coverage. The whole idea of combining or merging satcom networks into a larger 5G [network] that encompasses terrestrial technologies as well as satellite technologies is a must-have to the benefit of end-users. I think we see that trend and the fact that 3GPP work is now clearly ongoing to make sure non-terrestrial networks (NTN) are considered as part of the standardisation, that’s a clear testimony that there is a recognition that satellite is important”, said Jerome Soumagne, Vice President, Systems Engineering and Networks at Inmarsat.
Roger Boddy, member of the satellite consultative committee at OFCOM also weighed in on this topic: “Jerome mentioned the harmony of connectivity and I think I totally agree that we can harmonise systems with 5G and terrestrial and satellite in a seamless way because satellite does provide the last two important elements of the topics we are addressing: broadcast media connectivity and distribution as well as remote connectivity. Satellite is imperative for those two elements. Fabio [Curreli] mentioned remote connectivity. That’s the last mile that always has been the forte of satellite. It’s much less expensive to do it with satellite than it is with terrestrial means. Especially in the emerging world, the cost of putting in infrastructure is completely overtaken by the ease with which can deliver the service.”
The panel also discussed the technological developments of satellite constellations and capabilities in orbits other than geostationary (GEO), and highlighted the importance of connecting satellite in multiple orbits while still being able to offer a seamless service to customers, regardless of where the satellite is operating from. Fabio Curreli, Team Leader for Telecom Payload at German satellite manufacturer OHB shared his optimism about satellite’s future interlinking capabilities: “The satellite industry is taking a leap in terms of intersatellite connectivity. We explore different types of intersatellite connectivity. We explore QV-band as well as KA-band, but the most efficient in terms of mass power and spectrum, is the optical type of communication”. Curreli also elaborated on the ability of this technology to carry data information: “For intersatellite links, this [optical communications] is really ‘king’ at the moment. I believe that this is the future and we will have very high data-rate throughput for this type of communication. I am very positive that satellite can handle this type of connectivity and we can support the question now of how to integrate all of these with a terrestrial network.”
Finally, the panel addressed developments regarding vertical integration and expansion of B2B2C services within satellite operators’ capabilities, and moving beyond just capacity management. Holla-Maini: “I think the point is that satellite enhances networks and helps meet certain market requirements depending on what the need is. If we look at, for example, BT in the UK, they have integrated satellite across, I think, a thousand sites. They have VSATs across a thousand sites and they did this a few years ago because they were contracted by the government to put in place an emergency services network […] that had a coverage of, I think, 98%. The only way BT could deliver that was by integrating satellite. In doing so, they realised that satellite actually significantly increased the uptime of their work, and that is something which is becoming more and more important to mobile operators like BT as they start to deliver more reliable and ultra-reliable services. That is one of the use-cases of the 5G scenario. So, we should not assume that satellite has to be a B2C player to be successful in the future – we add value as a sector at multiple levels.”
Keen to learn more? Join us at the upcoming Satellite Connectivity Summit! Take a look at the conference agenda to see which topics the 2021 event will cover.
The upcoming Satellite Connectivity Summit brings together satellite operators, services providers and ground station operators with the telecommunications and broadcast media industries, to flip the script for the satellite services industry. The Summit is dedicated to the successful development, integration and monetisation of the next-gen downstream satellite connectivity ecosystem, including 5G integration, data services and state-of-the-art high throughput satellite infrastructures. Book your delegate pass today to secure your seat at the show!
The Satellite Connectivity Summit takes place in-person on November 16-17 in Bremen, Germany. You can book your delegate pass here.