The Keys to Meeting Global Broadband Demand

Success requires hybrid networks and flexible services

By Jean-Philippe Gillet, Intelsat, Vice President and General Manager, Broadband

The vision of a truly connected world – where broadband connectivity is accessible anywhere, anytime and to any device – is driving new perspectives and service concepts in the telecommunications arena.

To meet today’s global broadband demands, hybrid networks including wireline, wireless and satellite are required. Satellite operators are developing new solutions to deliver increased throughput, while also embracing their role as an integral part of the hybrid networks of today and in the future.

Integrating satellite and terrestrial solutions is the only way to bring more value to customers who seek seamless solutions, new business models and increased technical support to serve traditional sectors such as wireless and enterprise networking – as well as to serve fast-growing mobility, Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) sectors.

New High Throughput Satellite (HTS) technology is dispelling the point of view of some terrestrial players that satellite can only serve at the edge of the network – or is applicable only in remote regions of the world.

As HTS delivers major breakthroughs in the areas of performance, economics and access, a key industry analyst sees satellite as “a key enabler for broadband networks” – with increased roles in providing network resiliency, traffic offload and network densification (NSR’s Wireless Backhaul Via Satellite 11th edition).

Hybrid Networks are Essential

While it may seem like everyone has 24/7/365 broadband connectivity, this is far from reality in many parts of the world. There are still an estimated four billion persons who remain unconnected or limited by an unreliable or non-existent infrastructure. These populations present enormous opportunities for global wireless and network service providers to connect the unconnected and to expand their service territories.

No single technology or company can reach all possible geographies or meet the needs of these many vertical sectors. Satisfying this demand requires hybrid communications solutions combining wireline, wireless networks and satellite.

An HTS, such as Intelsat EpicNG, is ideally suited to serve as the connection point for remote, less-populated regions in these hybrid networks. HTS combine increased throughput with the traditional advantages of satellite that include reach and ubiquity. The new satellites are more capable, supporting more data volume with the same bandwidth.

However, simply delivering the bandwidth does not always resolve the challenge for broadband service providers. An area where innovative service providers and satellite operators can differentiate themselves in a competitive market is through innovative service offerings for customers.

Progressive satellite operators are offering consistent network throughput, with network flexibility to quickly increase bandwidth anywhere over the system, along with the ability to offer usage-based options.

Innovative service providers are offering end users SLAs and a wider range of service support. This includes supporting access to cloud-based applications and hybrid or software-defined, wide-area networks to connect branch offices to data centers and applications over large geographic distances.

As enterprises move more of their services to the cloud, their service providers will need to ensure the same level of connectivity at all locations of the networks. The enterprises also expect their service providers to have the capability to monitor the entire network, quickly deliver access to new locations, and immediately identify and correct network faults.

Diverse Connectivity Requirements

The mobility sector remains one of the most dynamic and growing opportunities for telecommunications companies (and uniquely satellite operators), driven by the societal need to remain connected at all times.

With the advent of HTS coverage, commercial shipping crews and cruise line and airline passengers can now receive a WiFi experience on the move that is similar to what they receive at home. Airline and vessel owners, as well as other enterprises, look to leverage the same infrastructure supporting passenger and crew communications to address IoT and M2M requirements that can create significant operational benefits.

As the IoT and M2M movements accelerate – a report by Juniper Research forecasts the number of IoT devices will reach 46 billion units by 2021 – satellite connectivity will play an essential role in the hybrid networks required by enterprise users who want to improve operations through predictive maintenance, fuel management and remotely piloted automation – just to name a few.

M2M applications in the aeronautical and maritime sectors offer much more potential for service providers. For example, a new Pratt & Whitney engine has 5,000 sensors that can generate up to 10 gigabytes of data per second. The capture, transmission and analysis of this data can cut fuel consumption by as much as 15 percent and allow predictive maintenance – which means fewer delayed flights and more time in the air. The potential revenue from these M2M applications dwarfs that of consumer-based connectivity.

The move to the cloud is further highlighting the advantages inherent in satellite connectivity. Now that service providers have the ability to incorporate HTS bandwidth and next-generation services into their offerings, they are enabling their enterprise customers to quickly spin up additional connectivity on demand – providing the ability for rapid expansion so end users can quickly leverage changes in the market.

Satellite operators have also met the challenge of making their networks future-proof, so they can react quickly to evolving end-user demand. This is why leading HTS satellites are backward compatible with existing ground equipment, so end users don’t have to make additional capital investments to access HTS services.

In the coming years, end users in every sector will need broadband connectivity everywhere – even in the most remote areas – and they will need more of it. This is why the near future represents a pivotal era for satellites, as the technology moves from being seen as “filling the gaps” to becoming an essential component of the hybrid communications networks the world demands.