Satellite services extending reach of mobile networks

8th March 2019 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

Satellite services extending  reach of mobile networks

CHRISTIAN OLSSON The low cost of satellite backhaul enables delivery of connectivity to remote areas

Multi-orbit satellite services are helping to extend the reach of mobile networks into areas where the economic feasibility of traditional roll-out models is challenging by providing a mobile Network-as-a-Service offering that includes a software-defined radio access network combined with a backhaul network, says satellite operator multinational SES Networks telecommunications and mobile networks operators senior manager Christian Olsson.

The small installations use renewable energy, can easily be deployed in any location and have minimal maintenance requirements, which allow for the desired return on investment, he says.

These solutions use a range of technologies, including very small aperture terminal (VSat) technology, that provide the high speeds required for mobile broadband, as well as resilience and uninterrupted connectivity because the network has few points of failure.

SES Networks has also noted an increase in demand for data streaming services, and telecommunications companies rely on satellite communications to roll out solutions to clients across their marketable territories in a fast and cost-efficient manner. Video is a high-demand application and often consumes 70% to 80% of bandwidth on a cell site.

“Consumer behaviour and growing consumer demand for resilient services and good user experiences are prompting service providers to use a range of complementary technologies to ensure that they [are able to] provide services for clients, from cities to rural areas.

“Being able to cost effectively address markets beyond urban and more densely populated areas underpins economic viability and, therefore, the commercial incentive for mobile network operators and service providers to deploy new services, including data services.”

Rural sites with software-defined second-generation radio access networks provide a good service with less than 100 kb/s of backhaul. A third-generation and fourth-generation/LTE VSat backhaul solution can save mobile operators more than 30% to 80% of bandwidth by leveraging data-use patterns to dynamically share backhaul capacity across all towers located in the satellite network’s vast coverage area, says Olsson.

Combined with increased spectral efficiency afforded by the latest technology, the cost of satellite backhaul is no longer a barrier, but an enabler in delivering connectivity to remote areas, he emphasises.

SES Networks has focused on innovation and standardisation to address the challenges of the telecommunications industry.

“Using our O3b medium earth orbit satellite constellation and our geostationary earth orbit satellites, we provide a range of services, such as mobile network backhaul, reliable enterprise broadband connectivity in difficult-to-reach places, Internet of Things connectivity, asset tracking and monitoring, as well as logistics and telemetry services for commercial, industrial and mining clients across Africa,” he says.

Meanwhile, government involvement in supporting greater broadband connectivity, including those enabled by satellite-driven solutions, varies greatly among countries. Some national governments support new networks and connectivity to improve connectivity for citizens, and others aim to modernise government infrastructure to meet their connectivity needs and to provide egovernance, ehealth and e-education services, as well as support critically important socio-economic development applications, says Olsson.

“We also see government digital initiatives to connect trade hubs, industries and supply chains to improve efficiencies and the distribution of goods throughout the economy, such as agricultural produce, which simultaneously reduces food perishing.”

Additionally, these changes are in line with the growing digitalisation of business processes that support the growth of companies, as well as allow for better information sharing across value chains.

Olsson highlights that there is growing demand for satellite connectivity in developed and developing markets, and notes that demand calls for an expansion of these services.