While satellite connectivity is often seen as a lever to pull where it would be impractical to set up a terrestrial tower, space based connectivity has more strings to its bow than that, says Intelsat.

Andrew Wooden

March 1, 2024

3 Min Read
Intelsat mwc 2024

Intelsat pumped a number of announcements out at MWC, including a renewal and expansion of its relationship with South African telco infrastructure firm Openserve to include new hardware and satellite connectivity.

While satellite connectivity can be set up above anywhere, the most useful thing most people will think of them is doing it providing coverage where it’s impossible or hard to do with terrestrial – such as halfway up a mountain or the middle of an ocean.

When asked about the need for satellite connectivity elsewhere, particularly developed areas like cities where 5G already exists, Rhys Morgan, General Manager and VP, Media and Networks EMEA at Intelsat told us:

“I think you're right to say that a number of years ago satellite was identified as a means of connectivity for hard to reach areas. And I think we've evolved our solution set in the way that we talked with our customers – and by the way, the large telcos here have been our customers since we were founded. So in fact the monopolies state owned telcos were actually the original shareholders of Intelsat. So these guys have been our customers for a long, long time. But we were often as you rightly say, connecting hard to reach areas.

“We've evolved our product and solution set, but we've also evolved the way that we work in partnership – very much in partnership – with the large telcos to provide an overlay. So it's not just about hard to reach areas, it could be to be able to provide surge capacity in event of unexpected demand, or in certain places a satellite actually works better – let's say for a quick deployment.

“So regulators across the world are pressurizing mobile network license holders to roll out coverage more rapidly. Satellites are great for that. So speed – you need to build 100 towers this year, do it with a satellite network, and maybe then for certain towers you'll link them up via fibre or microwave, and others could just stay on satellite. And we see that in a lot of different places.”

As well as speed, Morgan argues there are some benefits to having your infrastructure floating in space from a security standpoint – and that designing ‘flexible networks’ with satellites can play a role in data security.

“When networks are being challenged from a security perspective, then satellite can be useful because it's less terrestrial infrastructure. So for example, there's less infrastructure that could provide points of weakness within the network, whether that's physical attack or cyber attack. There's value there, no question.

“And then finally, keeping traffic in a country. A lot of countries are very interested in making sure that traffic remains domestic, whether it's taxation, data, etc. And because we can design flexible networks, we're able to do all of that. And so all of these features are extremely valuable for network operators. And what we need to do is get closer to them in terms of the way our technology integrates with theirs, hence our 5G network development, but also continue talking to them in partnership to understand where they're going and DT IoT is a really good example of that.

“So we’re spending a lot of time talking to them, listening to them, and then trying to move with them when they see a need for something. And it's not just hard to reach areas, there's a lot more to it than that now, but you're right to say a number of years ago that was it but there are fewer hard to reach areas now, and so it's about overlaying connectivity to deal with the different applications that people are looking for.”

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About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins Telecoms.com on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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