GEO satellite operators seek multi-orbit strategies

The setting was a bit completely different exterior the Paris lodge that hosted Euroconsult’s World Satellite tv for pc Enterprise Week in December. The Tuileries Gardens throughout the road, tranquil when the convention is often held in September, was as a substitute the positioning of a raucous Christmas carnival. From the center of the day till late within the night, crowds packed the park for meals, procuring and, particularly, amusement park rides.

The crowds, significantly the screams of individuals on the rides, have been loud sufficient to be heard in rooms of the lodge overlooking the park. One particular person sitting in such a room, although, had an alternate rationalization for the shouting: “It’s the cries of GEO operators making an attempt to compete with megaconstellations.”

These geostationary satellite tv for pc operators say they’ve a method for megaconstellations. Maybe the largest buzzword of the convention was “multi-orbit,” the place operators mix GEO satellites with non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) techniques to offer an answer they argue gives the strengths of each. Past the technical challenges of mixing GEO satellites with constellations, although, is determining find out how to work with these constellations — and if these constellations wish to work with them.


The central thesis of the multi-orbit technique is that operators can present their clients with the most effective of each orbits. Megaconstellations in LEO or MEO supply low latency wanted to combine with terrestrial techniques extra successfully, whereas GEO satellites present extra capability in a particular area, like city areas, than a megaconstellation that has to serve the complete globe.

“The dominant difficulty is just not a lot the quantity of gross capability however the effectivity of your potential to ship that capability within the locations the place there’s demand. That’s the place the place geosynchronous has a bonus,” mentioned Mark Dankberg, chairman of Viasat, throughout a panel dialogue on the convention. “We’re a believer in multi-orbit due to the latency issue.”

“LEO will present the worldwide protection and the low latency, and GEO provides on prime of that the power to convey capability in very high-density populated locations,” mentioned Jean-Hubert Lenotte, chief technique and assets officer of Eutelsat. One instance he gave is that, amongst shopper broadband subscribers, peak demand is within the evenings once they use streaming video providers. “Guess what? For streaming providers, latency doesn’t matter, which means that you’ve sturdy effectivity between GEO and LEO.”

On the convention, executives tended to elide over the technical challenges of multi-orbit options. What makes them possible is the rising use of software-defined payloads on GEO satellites, permitting operators to shift capability primarily based on altering demand and markets, and the event of electronically steered antennas that work with a number of satellite tv for pc techniques.

The larger difficulty could possibly be how GEO operators can finest work with LEO and MEO satellite tv for pc techniques. Probably the most easy strategy (but additionally the most costly) is constructing your personal constellation. That’s what Telesat is doing with its Lightspeed constellation of practically 300 satellites, which is able to price the Canadian operator an estimated $5 billion.

“We do imagine that low latency is necessary in the present day and will probably be more and more necessary going ahead,” Dan Goldberg, president and chief govt of Telesat, mentioned on the convention. “We’ll have the ability to serve a a lot bigger addressable market.”

SES already operates the O3b community of satellites in MEO and is doubling down with the mPOWER sequence of satellites scheduled to launch this 12 months. “We’ve been working in NGSO for near a decade now and couldn’t be extra enthusiastic about O3b mPOWER,” mentioned Steve Collar, chief govt of SES. “We’ve taken every part that we’ve realized from the O3b constellation and scaled it ridiculously.”

He acknowledged that O3b isn’t competing head-to-head with techniques like Starlink which are targeted on residential broadband. “We’re actually delivering high-throughput, high-flexibility providers,” he mentioned, supporting clients like authorities businesses and cruise traces. “I believe we’ve bought a really aggressive supply general.”

OneWeb Chief Know-how Officer Massimiliano Ladovaz, prime proper, and SpaceX vp of Starlink and business gross sales, Jonathan Hofeller, fourth from left, throughout a WSBW broadband panel dialogue. Credit score: Euroconsult by way of Flickr

Eutelsat’s strategy is to associate with, and change into a significant shareholder of, OneWeb. “We’re an enormous believer in LEOs and even an even bigger believer within the complementarity between LEOs and GEOs, so there was a powerful strategic rationale for us and an excellent entry value after Chapter 11,” Michel Azibert, deputy chief govt of Eutelsat, mentioned of his firm’s funding in OneWeb.

“Everyone seems to be speaking about multi-orbit options. The excellent news is that we’re fairly superior on that,” mentioned Massimiliano Ladovaz, chief expertise officer of OneWeb. “The work that we’re doing with Eutelsat reveals we’re forward on that.”

Each Inmarsat and Viasat have talked about multi-orbit options of their very own, from Inmarsat’s proposed Orchestra community that might mix GEO, LEO and terrestrial techniques to Viasat’s filings with the FCC for NGSO satellites. It’s unclear how Viasat’s acquisition of Inmarsat, introduced in November however not anticipated to shut till the second half of 2022, will have an effect on these plans, and neither Dankberg nor Rajeev Suri, Inmarsat’s chief govt, elaborated on these plans throughout separate appearances on the convention.

Then there’s Intelsat. The operator was as soon as positioned to be a pacesetter in multi-orbit options when it introduced a merger with OneWeb in 2017, a deal that fell by means of when Intelsat’s collectors balked on the phrases. Each firms in the end filed for Chapter 11 chapter.

Intelsat executives have talked extra lately about multi-orbit methods. Samer Halawi, Intelsat’s govt vp and chief business officer, in an interview final fall, mentioned the corporate was contemplating partnerships with NGSO satellite tv for pc operators and constructing its personal system. Nevertheless, Intelsat introduced in December that Halawi could be leaving the corporate on the finish of the 12 months. Intelsat’s chief govt, Stephen Spengler, additionally introduced he’ll retire as soon as the corporate completes its Chapter 11 restructuring. (Spengler didn’t take part in particular person or nearly on the convention due to hearings associated to the restructuring effort, organizers mentioned.)

In an interview through the convention, Jon Cobin, chief technique officer of Intelsat, mentioned the corporate was nonetheless taking a look at choices for NGSO satellites, together with each growing its personal satellites and partnering with different firms. “We’re evaluating extra orbits. We’ve been taking a look at non-GEO for a few years as an organization,” he mentioned. “You want a number of orbits to finest present carrier-grade providers to cellular customers.”

Cobin mentioned that whereas Intelsat could also be lagging different main GEO operators in articulating a multi-orbit technique, ready and watching what the opposite operators do has benefits. “We expect that studying from these classes, watching how individuals go to market, has some advantages,” he mentioned. “We expect it’s necessary to be prudent by way of how we convey that in.”


Smaller GEO satellite tv for pc operators are additionally desirous about multi-orbit methods. Nevertheless, their choices are restricted since they typically lack the assets to construct their very own LEO constellations. As a substitute, they need to search for partnerships among the many megaconstellation firms.

“We would like a partnership with them so we will resell their capability,” mentioned Kyungmin David Track, chief govt of South Korean operator KT Sat. “NGSO gives excessive capability and excessive throughput, so we will use their capability to fill within the gaps we can’t present for our present clients.”

“What’s necessary for us is to attempt to discover a associate,” mentioned Miguel Angel Panduro, chief govt of Hispasat. He anxious, although, about selecting the correct associate. “Some insiders think about that not more than two constellations will succeed, so we can’t fail.”

He recommended Hispasat was pinning its hopes on the European Union’s proposed constellation to offer broadband and safe communications. Hispasat is a part of a consortium of European satellite tv for pc operators, producers and different telecommunications firms wrapping up a year-long feasibility research of the system.

Different operators are anxious concerning the impression broadband constellations may have on their enterprise. Adnan Al Muhairi, chief expertise officer of Yahsat, mentioned his firm “is in discussions and is coordinating” with potential constellation companions. “A considerable amount of capability will definitely trigger an imbalance of provide and demand available in the market,” he warned. “Until demand can sustain with that provide, you’re going to see some vital impression to the present manner enterprise is completed.”

He was additionally skeptical of the curiosity in low-latency communications that LEO constellations supply. “I haven’t heard anybody ask about latency, personally,” he mentioned. “It isn’t one thing that’s introduced up as a key requirement from our clients.”

“Proper now, I don’t see a requirement on the desk that we’ve got to mix LEO and GEO,” mentioned Hasan Huseyin Ertok, chief govt of Turksat. “Prospects don’t wish to cope with which orbit is offering providers.”

However, he added, occasions are altering. “Within the coming years, it’s going to be one thing we’ve got to work on,” he mentioned. “Sooner or later, we’ve got to place LEO satellites into the image and supply seamless connections for our clients. It’s coming within the subsequent few years.”


One difficulty these operators face is discovering a LEO constellation firm to associate with. Eutelsat’s stake in OneWeb might restrict partnership alternatives, and Amazon has mentioned little about its curiosity in partnering with GEO satellite tv for pc operators. Many different proposed techniques are simply that: proposed, and thus years away from coming into service.

Then there’s Starlink. SpaceX’s broadband megaconstellation is on the forefront of the business, and the corporate doesn’t have present ties to GEO operators, which might make it a really perfect associate. Besides SpaceX isn’t fascinated by working with GEO operators on multi-orbit options.

“We speak with GEO operators,” mentioned Jonathan Hofeller, vp of Starlink and business gross sales at SpaceX. That features these operators that use SpaceX to launch their satellites. “We’re open to exploring the place LEO plus GEO is smart, and we proceed to be open. We’ve but to search out that precise resolution that works finest.”

He took difficulty with one of many core tenets of the multi-orbit strategy: that GEO satellites are wanted to offer extra capability in city areas that may’t be met by LEO constellations alone. SpaceX as a substitute thinks the reply is to easily add extra LEO capability.

“There’s no purpose why LEO can’t be excessive density,” he mentioned. “There’s complexity with having a multi-orbit system. Typically some individuals need slower, high-latency web that will serve them, but when given the selection between a extra advanced, high-risk resolution or one that may present low latency and excessive velocity on a regular basis and meet their velocity and bandwidth calls for, they may select the easier resolution and the easier structure that LEO gives.”

Hofeller mentioned SpaceX is targeted on constructing out the buyer broadband marketplace for Starlink, together with enterprise and authorities clients that kind a “three-legged stool” for the enterprise. “We’re simply pushing up an amazing quantity of capability on orbit and discovering out how we finest make the most of that,” he mentioned.

SpaceX could be going it alone, however GEO satellite tv for pc operators say it could’t be ignored, both. “We will all debate whether or not Starlink is a superb marketing strategy or not, however the actuality is that it’s an instance of addressing a broader market,” mentioned Telesat’s Goldberg. “They’ve enlarged the market.”

Euroconsult introduced that the 2022 version of World Satellite tv for pc Enterprise Week would return to its regular slot on the calendar in mid-September, which implies the Tuileries Gardens throughout the road needs to be peaceable as soon as once more. Any shouts you hear then inside the partitions of the convention lodge may certainly be from satellite tv for pc operators determining their multi-orbit methods.

This text initially appeared within the January 2022 difficulty of table4 journal.

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