In the telecommunications sector, there are two things of which we can be certain. The first is that change is constant. The second is that we will consume more data tomorrow than we did today.
The exploding popularity of entertainment options – combined with the increased availability of smart phones, tablets and laptops – has dramatically transformed how we consume content and communicate with one another.
Increasingly sophisticated methods of virtual connectivity also have become necessary to maximize office productivity. As a result, high-end users require a continuous and seemingly limitless stream of bandwidth – regardless of time or location.
According to a recent study by Point Topic, there will be more than one billion broadband subscribers by decade’s end. The study noted that South and East Asia will fuel much of this growth, with the number of subscribers set to skyrocket by 70 percent over the course of the next five years. By comparison, the study forecast the number of broadband subscribers in mature markets such as Western Europe, South Korea and Hong Kong will rise by 14 percent.
Faced with these evolving requirements, satellite operators and service providers are under immense pressure. We must develop technology that is capable of delivering the connectivity and efficiency to meet current and emerging broadband demands.
To meet this challenge, there must be tight alignment of technology innovation throughout the satellite ecosystem. This means satellite operators and service providers must work closely with hardware and technology partners to create solutions that enable our customers to expand their subscriber base, while lowering their total cost of ownership and increasing their average revenue per user (ARPU).
The Responsibility of Satellite Operators
It is incumbent upon satellite operators, such as Intelsat, to innovate in the sky. This entails providing fixed and mobile service providers with an array of coverage options with the proper footprint, combined with the choice of satellite spectrum that best meets their application mix and long-term business needs.
Satellite operators must leverage game-changing technology to provide compelling economics. This involves combining cost-efficient, start-up and transition costs with affordable upgrade paths as demand increases.
In addition, the technology in the sky must offer service providers more power via future-proofed systems to meet market demands.
To meet this responsibility, Intelsat is incorporating high-throughput satellites into its fleet to complement existing traditional wide beams and provide differentiated services.
When designing these satellites, our goal was to provide our customers – who best understand their end markets – the flexibility to implement the best possible solution for their requirements.
The Role of Equipment Manufacturers
That same kind of innovation, choice and flexibility also needs to occur at the equipment-manufacturer level. Only by marrying innovation in the sky with ongoing advancements on the ground will the satellite industry provide the best solution to its customers and their end users.
Ground-equipment manufacturers are continuing to integrate optimal performance into their designs, to complement innovations in the sky. New and better modulation techniques, increased data handling and packet processing, and flexible bandwidth-allocation schemes are needed to ensure satellite remains an integral part of a fixed or mobile service provider’s hybrid network.
This topic was addressed earlier this year at a Satellite 2014 panel discussion featuring leading representatives of the satellite ecosystem. We discussed how best to support service providers as they expand their networks to more rural or geographically challenging regions – with solutions that reduce time-to-market while scaling to meet growing data, voice and media demands of their end users.
The panel concluded it was incumbent upon all satellite industry players – not only operators and hardware manufacturers – to work together to continually introduce new, more innovative solutions. These solutions must provide levels of service that meet booming bandwidth requirements, while providing control to the service provider to allow further differentiation with improved service delivery and support.
Benefits of Open-Architecture Platform
That leads us to the type of platform that is needed to succeed. In my view, an open-architecture platform offers service providers more flexibility and choice over the long-term.
A truly open platform, of which Intelsat EpicNG high-throughput satellites are an example, is backward compatible. An open platform provides customers the option to leverage the reach of traditional wide beams while benefiting from the high-throughput, spot beam design where it makes economic sense – all without having to replace existing hardware. The increased throughput and efficiency of the EpicNG design, via its mix of wide and spot beams, provides the highest levels of performance – meaning more bits can be delivered to a given ground station per megahertz of capacity.
Adoption of this open platform is expected to result in lower operating and capital expenditures, enabling service providers to scale their network and increase their subscriber base at a much lower total cost of ownership.
When satellite throughput, efficiency, coverage, architecture, spectrum and ground hardware are aligned, our customers’ opportunities expand.
One recent example of this type of collaboration is the broadband connectivity agreement announced earlier this year by Intelsat and Vodacom, leveraging Hughes Network Systems ground platforms to bring connectivity to the SOHO/SME market in Africa. Collaborations such as this one are happening throughout the industry. They enable the customer to scale at a much lower cost, delivering benefits to the end-users and communities and economies that they serve.
The entire satellite ecosystem acknowledges that we must collaborate more often and work more closely to drive further innovation that generates greater efficiency – helping our customers achieve the lowest cost of ownership.
We’ve made steady progress. However, to achieve our collective goals, we must continue to push ourselves to do more.
About the author: Mike DeMarco is Senior Vice President, Product and Asset Management for Intelsat. He can be reached at Michael.DeMarco@Intelsat.com.