Dr Dawie de Wet (Pr. Eng. M.Sc. Eng.) – Group CEO of Q-KON and Chief Engineer for Twoobii
Satellites are rapidly evolving and smart satellite solutions are proving to be a cost-effective option for reliable communication.
The satellite industry continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, and global corporations are investing billions in new satellite constellations – with projects in advanced stages from the likes of Amazon, China Space, and OneWeb.
This begs the question – what are the goals of these mega projects and how will businesses benefit?
Investment for return
The majority of the projected 332% growth in satellite launches during the current decade comes from a number of mega satellite projects already under way and relates to both Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) constellations.
There are also plans to replace existing Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) GEO satellites as development of this technology accelerates.
As these projects are primarily privately funded, it is reasonable to assume that the estimated $10bn investment required by the initial phase of each project (excluding continued capital requirements) is being made with the expectation of a commercial return from customers.
This in turn presumes that these customers exist, and that they will be prepared to pay for satellite services when fibre, microwave and 5G alternatives are already available.
Comparing apples with apples
In any discussion of the relative merits of satellite and other communications technologies, it’s important to realise that satellite is a very different technology.
This means that simply comparing relative speeds and costs does not tell the whole story, as satellite technology is unique in the advantages it provides to end users.
While cost is often a key driver behind technological innovations, and it is true that the latest satellite developments are helping to reposition satellite services on the performance-cost curve, satellite is unlikely ever to be the cheapest option.
Rather, satellite offers value-added benefits that cannot be matched by other available technologies.
End-users’ terminals connect directly to the satellite network through radio signals, and then to the Internet via global or national gateway stations.
Smart Satellite Service Networks – such as the Twoobii network operating on the Intelsat-Flex platform – offer multiple benefits to business users: rapid, flexible and mobile deployment; ubiquitous coverage; and a very high degree of network reliability.
The satellite network is already built in the sky – no additional towers, cabling or infrastructure are required to connect customers.
All that is needed is a user terminal, which in future will be “self-installed”.
Multiple additional user benefits flow from this ease of deployment:
Satellites offer rapid connection to customers in areas where terrestrial network services are not yet available.
Connecting public and ultimately private transport vehicles is a key focus area for satellite network operators.
Satellite services are uniquely positioned to service the ever-increasing user demand to be always connected, even on the move.
With a satellite network, all the capacity is available at all times and in all locations and is accessible via the installation of an end-user terminal.
Being able to add network capacity on demand enables Telcos and fixed network operators to immediately boost capacity e.g. at popular outdoor events.
Individual users can also access this capacity to add additional resources over critical periods (whether scheduled or unanticipated).
Satellite service connectivity is available “everywhere you are”.
This translates to a number of user benefits including:
The most popular benefit of satellite services is their ability to offer connectivity to users who are beyond the reach of existing Telco networks.
Prior to the advent of satellite services, these “off-grid” users would have had to either build very specific and expensive links to networks or accept zero connectivity.
Ubiquity underpins much of the value proposition of current satellite services and will be a strong driver in “connecting the unconnected” projects designed to bring the benefits of internet connectivity to schools, peri-urban residential areas, and remote business locations such as mines, farms, forestry operations and fisheries.
Connectivity is nothing without reliability.
For business network architects who must ensure connectivity to multiple, geographically disparate locations, satellite offers unmatched uptime.
Even at current terminal and services costs, the deployment of wide area networks is reassuringly predictable thanks to immunity from topographical factors, specific network availability, and the need to manage multiple service providers.
Once a business customer has installed the necessary remote terminals and integrated the core with the satellite gateway, access is assured to a simple and trustworthy network architecture.
Satellite offers the most reliable means of connectivity as it is entirely free from dependencies on regional power supply, regional towers, local infrastructure, cable routes or any other terrestrial infrastructure.
Communications satellites are engineered for extremely high reliability rates (typically 99.95%)
Additional benefits flowing from this enhanced availability include:
Where connectivity is mission-critical, business users can implement multiple backup systems – or simply install satellite services.
Planned satellite networks will eliminate existing link speed constraints and latency, making satellite network connectivity highly attractive to financial services providers by facilitating ATMs, card transactions and branch banking services in more remote communities and business premises.
The high reliability of satellite services makes this technology ideally suited to the provision of back-up services.
Integration with SD-WAN architecture allows satellite services to provide the redundancy required for retail and commercial networks.
This benefit is further supported through flexible “pay-per-use” commercial models that increase the cost-effectiveness of satellite technology.
Smart satellite services such as Twoobii-by-Q-KON already offer attractive reliability and flexibility benefits specifically for business users.
Planned mega satellite networks will make these benefits more widely available, and at scale.
The key advantages of Smart Satellite Services will continue to be anchored on the fundamental differentiators of orbital technology: rapid deployment, flexibility, reliability and ubiquitous signal coverage.