The requirement to close the connectivity gap – through cellular penetration and increasing demand for mobile broadband services – is driving mobile network operators (MNOs) to upgrade network infrastructures.
The challenge is finding a solution that cost-effectively expands networks to enable delivery of affordable services for end users today – while at the same time building infrastructure flexibility that can scale to address the potentially explosive demands in the future.
The satellite sector has responded to this challenge with a new generation of high-throughput satellite (HTS) platforms. The new HTS platforms satisfy tomorrow’s bandwidth demands while enabling an economic groundwork for expanding subscriber bases in unconnected regions, all while dramatically lowering the total cost of ownership for network operators.
By improving the performance of the satellites in orbit and complementing that with enhancements throughout the ground infrastructure, satellite operators are delivering the connectivity, quality and reliability that improves the lives of end users throughout the region – while helping MNOs increase the average revenue per user (ARPU).
HTS Delivering Higher Performance, Greater Efficiency
As bandwidth requirements skyrocket in existing service areas, the limits of current network design for backhaul of 3G/4G networks are being reached. At the same time, the economics of reaching customers in remote and sparsely populated areas are increasingly challenging. Extending terrestrial networks to these regions is a slow, incremental process that takes time and considerable resources. By the time these networks are put in place, the competitive landscape, customer requirements and technology advances may have changed.
Network operators looking to reach these potential customers – as well as meet universal service obligations – are looking to satellite solutions more than ever. Satellite has tremendous attributes, including ubiquity, reliability, security, efficiency and quick deployment. It facilitates global connectivity and equality of services.
To deliver a service that can change the outcome for these regions of the world, the satellite sector has made improvements to its technology. These improvements will enable the delivery of the needed additional bandwidth, along with improved economics that will make it profitable for service providers to adequately serve these areas.
One notable HTS offering, Intelsat EpicNG, will deliver additional throughput to enable the expansion of 3G and 4G networks and provide faster, reliable connectivity to the end user.
Latin American operators and end users will be the first to benefit from Intelsat EpicNG, with Intelsat EpicNG 29e already in orbit. Performance testing with customers across multiple sectors has exceeded our design specifications, particularly with respect to efficiency. This testing indicates throughput improvements of up to 2.5 times above, compared to wide-beam capacity and current platforms. When paired with IntelsatOne Flex, a global managed service that optimizes bandwidth allocations, our customers will have secure, available bandwidth anywhere and whenever it is needed.
The performance of HTS designs also significantly increases the capabilities of standard ground infrastructure, allowing up to 10 times more throughput through a given remote configuration. Combining increased efficiencies from space (Mbps/MHz) with increased efficiencies on the ground (Mbps/Watt) allows for the most attractive end-user economics.
This additional throughput is enabling MNOs to respond quickly to new market demands by delivering more throughput per MHz of spectrum, helping lower the cost per bit delivered. Combined with technology advancements in ground hardware, this will continue to improve the data speeds delivered. These improved data speeds will enable the expansion of 4G networks and faster speeds to the end user, particularly in remote areas where terrestrial infrastructure is unavailable.
Generating New Revenue Opportunities for All
Satellite has made tremendous strides in performance with the introduction of next-generation satellites, but HTS is not the only answer. Rather, it is part of the broader solution that must be delivered. We believe this includes:
- A multi-band, open architecture, approach that will efficiently serve a broader variety of customers and applications by placing bandwidth and power wherever and whenever it’s needed;
- Backward compatibility that allows network operators to leverage existing hardware investments;
- Improvements along the ecosystem that make it easier to access HTS solutions.
These improvements mean wireless network providers can focus investment dollars on developing new services and applications for customers rather than on their network, enabling MNOs to:
- Accelerate network deployment into low-density, low-ARPU regions with improved economics;
- Fulfill universal service obligations for existing and new spectrum allocations;
- Provide highly reliable services for either base station access or aggregation points;
- Bypass terrestrial bottlenecks to minimize lost calls and throttled throughputs.
We are seeing increased demand for migration to 3G/4G, as approximately 80 percent of mobile connections in Latin America are still in 2G. Satellite will play a critical role in the upgrading of mobile networks throughout the region. The trends in mobile subscriptions and network coverage suggest that a large part of the remaining untapped market for subscribers is in remote areas, according to Euroconsult.
While Brazil leads South America with a wireless penetration rate of more than 50 percent, Euroconsult forecasts that growth in Brazil’s VSAT market will accelerate over the next 10 years at a CAGR of 21 percent. Euroconsult also predicts rural connectivity and government verticals in Brazil will require more than 73,000 sites by 2024.
Reaching emerging, untapped markets is not just about connecting them, it’s about providing valuable services to support business growth, driving entrepreneurship and enhancing the quality of life.
Satellite technology continues to prove its essential role in establishing a reliable infrastructure for communications services. The evolution of satellite technology – with advancements such as HTS platforms and smaller, more powerful access technology on the ground – means that satellite is poised to play an even more important role in the expansion of wireless networks.