By Jean-Philippe Gillet, Vice President-GM Broadband, Intelsat
In my nearly 30 years in the telecom industry, I have seen firsthand how broadband connectivity and ICT can transform and empower communities. Simple and affordable access to broadband infrastructure ignites and drives economic growth, improves access to services such as healthcare and education, and builds digital bridges that connect communities.
New Telecom Strategies
The fact that nearly four billion persons around the world do not have access to internet connectivity is an oft-cited figure in the telecom industry. Even more noteworthy, nearly three-quarters of those unconnected are concentrated in just 20 countries.
The satellite sector is providing a technology solution to address connectivity shortfalls with the launch of high-throughput satellites (HTS) such as the Intelsat EpicNG satellites. The performance of these satellites is delivering unprecedented reach and economics to telecom infrastructure providers around the world.
HTS combines increased throughput and higher power with the traditional advantages of satellite that include ubiquitous and near-instant infrastructure.
These new satellites are more efficient, delivering more data volume with the same bandwidth. Also, the higher power means the services can be delivered using solar-powered terminals with a reduced footprint – improving the operational profile over the life of the node.
Combined with the unmatched reach of satellite technology and improved total cost of ownership, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) now have a viable business case for delivering affordable broadband telecom services to populations in remote regions.
Innovations such as HTS address the lack of broadband infrastructure needed to reach the unconnected. However, that is just one of the barriers to expanding the network. To fully connect the four billion – with benefits such as end-user affordability and user capability – requires a fresh approach and new business models.
For example, Intelsat has worked with hardware partners to develop a solution to support MNOs’ objectives to expand in hard-to-reach areas. The historical challenge in extending networks to remote regions has been the need to use diesel generators to provide consistent service levels, as power supplies are often either unreliable or non-existent. In those environments, maintaining equipment and securing fuel can be the most difficult and expensive part of network operations.
With the higher power and efficiency provided by Intelsat EpicNG, we are enabling the use of a comprehensive, solar-powered solution that delivers 2G, 3G and 4G solutions targeted to ultra-rural geographies. By solving challenges associated with deployment, cost and operations, MNOs can take advantage of the reach and security provided by satellite with smaller and less power-hungry equipment that can be carried by hand and installed by just a few people.
Intelsat is also active in developing solutions that integrate satellite services into 5G solutions, such as planning terminals with integrated chipsets based on core wireless standards (3GPP).
One of the other major challenges to reaching the more remote regions of the world is delivering fast, high-quality broadband connectivity that is affordable to the end-user and meets the MNO’s business-model objectives.
To help solve those issues, Intelsat is pairing our technology improvements with innovations in the ecosystem and developing service models that have the goal of expanding fast, high quality broadband access that is efficient, affordable and can meet the unique needs of the communities it wishes to serve.
We are also working with partners to deliver unique and innovative connectivity solutions via Wi-Fi kiosks. One example is our work with Coca-Cola to bring satellite-enabled Wi-Fi services to remote communities. The Coca-Cola Company is already working in developing communities around the world to foster sustainable development activity such as supporting clean water and sanitation services – as well as economic empowerment for women.
Under a new partnership with Intelsat, the Coca Cola Company will integrate satellite-based Wi-Fi access into certain retail facilities in rural areas, enabling personal and commercial connectivity for citizens. The partnership will support both companies’ business plans as well as their mutual efforts to promote sustainable development, especially in underserved communities. The kiosks themselves are managed by women entrepreneurs across several African countries.
Our technology and business innovation efforts are part of our strategy to work with the entire telecoms sector to deliver broadband for all. In 2017, Intelsat CEO Steve Spengler joined the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, which is jointly managed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The Commission combines the work of the public and private sectors to promote broadband in developing countries and underserved communities.
This is a natural evolution for Intelsat, which has a rich history of working with both developed and developing countries to deliver fast, high-quality, reliable and secure broadband infrastructure that supports socio-economic growth and development in the communities it serves.
The global broadband connectivity targets that the Commission issued in January are fully achievable by the 2025 goal. However, we realize that no single company or technology can serve as the sole solution. This will require cooperation and the creative thinking of all sectors – including governments, regulators, wireline networks, wireless networks and satellite providers.
There could be no greater achievement than to connect the unconnected. As part of the UN Broadband Commission, we are committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and look forward to continuing our work to serve the global community by providing universal access for all.