Volume III, No. IX September 2018
Table of Contents
Industry Trends and Analysis: (pg. 3)
Patee Sarasin, former CEO of Nok Air:
"Unlocking the Riches of In-flight Wi-Fi" (pg. 4)
David Bruner, former V.P. Panasonic Avionics:
"Buckle Up! :Turbulence Ahead in Airline Connectivity Markets"
"The Promise of the New Iridium and Aireon Services: Big Advancements in Air Traffic Management on the Horizon" (pg. 26)
Ernst Peter Hovinga, CEO Hiber: "Disrupting the Satellite IoT Connectivity Market: The Promise of Hiber" (p.31)
"Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events"
Independent Analysis and Commentary on Maritime, Aero and Land-based Satellite Technologies
In This Issue...
Editorial: "The Unspoken Risk of OneWeb and the Mega LEOs"
"Leading in the New Satellite Era"
An Interview with SES President and CEO Steve Collar
"HawkEye 360: RF Imaging's New Eye in the Sky"
A New Solution for Vessel Tracking Using Radio Frequency Emissions
"Securing Satellite's Place in the 5G Mobility World"
"On the Road to Low Cost, Mass Produced Phased Array Antennas"
ALCAN Systems' Antenna: Phase Shifting with LC Technology - New New Flat Panel Technology for Mobility
"For Cruise: High Capacity Modems, Channel Bonding and New Wave Forms"
Satellite mobility World
Table of Contents...
Industry Trends and Analysis (pg.3)
"The Unspoken Risks of OneWeb and the Mega-LEOs" (pg.4)
"Leading in the New Satellite Era" An Interview with SES President and CEO, Steve Collar (pg. 11)
"HawkEye 360: RF Imaging's New Eye in the Sky" A New Solution of Vessel Tracking Using Radio Frequency Emissions (pg. 22)
"Securing Satellite's Place in the 5G Mobility World" (pg.30)
"On the Road to Low Cost, Mass Produced Phased Array Antennas" Phase Shifting with Liquid Crystal - New Flat Panel Technology for Mobility (pg.37)
"For Cruise: High Capacity Modems, Channel Bonding and New Wave Forms" (pg.44)
Recommended Upcoming Industry Events (pg 51)
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Welcome to the September 2018 issue of Gottlieb's Satellite Mobility World. Our September issues features a look at the disruptive changes in the satellite industry with SES CEO Steve Collar; a look at HawkEye 360, the first company able to identify and track RF emissions; an overview of Alcan Systems clever, new phased array antenna; Newtec's high bandwidth solutions for cruise, and a primer on the ways satellite complements 5G for iDirect.
In our Editorial, "The Unspoken Risks of OneWeb and the Mega-LEOs," we bring together the commentary of several satellite industry experts to outline the incredible challenges facing these LEO pioneers, including licensing obstacles particular to LEOs, increasing competition from GEO HTS satellites and fiber, limits on the ability of users in third world countries to pay for these services and the challenge associated with establishing business entities or finding business partners in 190 countries. Enjoy!
Gottlieb's Satellite and Mobility World is published monthly (except August) by Gottlieb International Group., Inc. Suite 100, 1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington, VA USA 22204
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Gottlieb's Satellite and Mobility World is published monthly (except August) by Gottlieb International Group., Inc. Suite 100, 1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington, VA USA 22204
© Copyright 2018
Interested in our unique Promotional Capabilities?
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SATELLITE MOBILITY WORLD
Industry Trends and Analysis
Speedcast International Ltd. to Acquire Globecomm
London, Aug 28, 2018 - (ABN Newswire) - Speedcast International Limited (ASX:SDA) (OTCMKTS:SPPDF) ("Speedcast"), the world's most trusted provider of remote communication and IT solutions, today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Globecomm Systems Inc. ("Globecomm") from affiliates of HPS Investment Partners, LLC Tennenbaum Capital Partners, LLC and certain other members of Globecomm for an estimated net purchase consideration of US$135 million, including expected purchase price adjustments.
Globecomm is a leading provider of remote communications and multi-network infrastructure to Government, Maritime, and Enterprise sectors in over 100 countries. The acquisition strengthens Speedcast's global competitive position in these sectors by enhancing its current solutions, and complements the recent acquisition of UltiSat - doubling Speedcast's revenue in the Government sector, and adding more scale, visibility and capabilities in this growth market. In addition, Globecomm will benefit from Speedcast's scale and capabilities in the Maritime and Enterprise markets.
"This acquisition of Globecomm is fully in line with our strategy to consolidate our industry and thus build competitive advantages based on scale and capabilities. Globecomm is particularly complementary to UltiSat as it strengthens Speedcast's position serving Government customers at a time when government spending globally is expected to rise. Globecomm has built a strong reputation providing remote communications and professional services to key customers in the Government sector, as well as in the Maritime and Enterprise segments," said Speedcast CEO Pierre-Jean Beylier. "I am excited to have the Globecomm team joining Speedcast. They will strengthen our innovation capabilities with new solutions and strong engineering experience, as well as enhancing our system integration propositions. We expect to drive significant cost and revenue synergy potential from this acquisition, given the strong financial and operational benefits of scale across core verticals."
"The Globecomm team is thrilled to join forces with the global leader in remote communications. This is an exciting development for our employees and our customers and I look forward to building new solutions and further enhancing our customers' experience with the integrated team," said Jason D. Juranek, CEO Globecomm.
Speedcast estimates it will generate over US$15 million in annual cost synergies within 18 months after the acquisition. The cost synergies are expected to be generated across the business, including through footprint rationalization, network improvements and improved procurement.
The acquisition will be funded by a fully underwritten US$175 million add-on to Speedcast's existing 7-year senior secured credit facility (due 2025) from the US institutional term loan market, which will also be used to repay a portion of Speedcast's revolving credit facility and thus enhance Speedcast's liquidity position.
The transaction is expected to close in Q4 2018, subject to the completion of customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.
Telesat’s New Telstar 19 VANTAGE Satellite Now Operational
Ottawa, Canada, August 27, 2018 – Telesat announced today that its new Telstar 19 VANTAGE high throughput satellite (HTS) is fully operational at 63 degrees West and has entered commercial service. Telstar 19 VANTAGE was launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 22nd and will serve growing consumer, enterprise and mobility markets across the Americas and Atlantic. It is being operated by Telesat Brasil, a Brazilian satellite company wholly-owned by Telesat.
Telstar 19 VANTAGE was built by SSL, a Maxar Technologies company, and is the latest in a new generation of Telesat satellites with capacity optimized to serve the types of bandwidth intensive applications increasingly in demand by users worldwide. It operates from Telesat’s prime orbital location of 63 degrees West, the same as Telesat’s highly utilized Telstar 14R satellite, and brings a new level of performance and value for satellite broadband requirements on land, at sea and in the air. With its distinct zones of coverage across the Americas and Atlantic, Telstar 19 VANTAGE combines regional beams and high throughput spot beams in Ku-band with additional HTS spot beams in Ka-band.
As previously announced, Telesat customer Hughes Network Systems LLC (Hughes) has signed a 15-year agreement for Telstar 19 VANTAGE Ka-band capacity which Hughes refers to as Hughes 63 West. Hughes will utilize this capacity to expand its broadband satellite services for consumers and businesses in South America. Telesat also has long-term contracts for the entire Ka-band capacity of Telstar 19 VANTAGE over Northern Canada, including providing Bell Canada subsidiary Northwestel with the HTS spot beam capacity required to enhance broadband connectivity for all 25 communities in Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory.
“Telstar 19 VANTAGE is a state-of-the-art spacecraft that combines regional beams and high throughput spot beams to deliver superior performance and value to the market,” said Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s President and CEO. “The pre-launch agreements Telesat has secured with Hughes and Bell Canada, combined with strong interest from other leading satellite service providers across the Americas and Atlantic, confirm that the innovative design of Telstar 19 VANTAGE is the right one to serve today’s bandwidth intensive applications. I would like to congratulate the teams at Telesat and SSL whose dedication and expertise enabled Telstar 19 VANTAGE to become fully operational within weeks after launch.”
Phasor Achieves Commercial Milestone with Contracts Worth Over $300 Million
Washington, DC, August 23, 2018: Phasor, the pioneering developer of broadband, electronically steerable antenna systems (ESAs), announced today that it achieved an important milestone by securing commercial contracts valued at over $300 million. These multi-year product contracts are tied to exclusivity with key customers in defined target markets.
“These contracts demonstrate Phasor’s progression from a technology development firm to a products company focussed on delivering enterprise-grade ESAs to commercial mobile broadband markets”, said David Helfgott, CEO, Phasor.
Over the coming months, Phasor expects to announce additional contracts across its commercial mobile broadband and government Communications-on-the-Move (COTM) target markets.
Phasor’s very low profile, electronically steerable antennas enable high-bandwidth service in a more reliable, robust and failure-tolerant way. The antennas are solid-state, with no moving parts, to allow electronic tracking of satellite signals. The modular architecture of the Phasor technology allows antennas to scale to virtually any use-case requirement, fixed or mobile. The antennas can be flat or conformal, and fitted seamlessly to moving aircraft, ships or land-based vehicles. Phasor’s technology is very well suited to support fixed satellite networks, High Throughput Satellite networks and Non-Geosynchronous satellite networks.
Small Sat Conference at Utah State: Unbelievable - over 3,000 Attendees!
For those interested in satellite innovation, the Small Sat Conference held annually in early August in Logan, Utah is a must attend. For the first time, Satellite Mobility World headed to this small Utah college town to have a look at the latest innovations in this fast growing sector, and we were absolutely amazed. Exhibition halls were packed with exhibits and exhibitors included small, innovative companies with new applications as well as satellite industry giants like Harris Corp, ViaSat, L-3, Boeing, Eutelsat and Arianespace and others.
Companies of notable interest included HawkEye 360 (profiled in this issue); SatLantis, an imaging company applying image enhancing technology used in astronomy to earth observation; Rocket Labs, a pioneer in the small satellite launch area, and NSLComm, an Israeli firm with a unique antenna solution enabling broadband K-Band using an expandable, parachute-like antenna (also profiled in an earlier edition of our magazine). While most of the small satellite applications were focused on imaging applications, small sat firms like NSLComm, Sky and Space Global, and Hiber are notable for their focus on communications and IoT - a growing trend in the sector. Also of interest was the growing number of launch competitors.
Intent on securing a major competitive position in the small satellite launch segment, Arianespace gave a major presentation on its Vega C launch vehicle, a modularized, multi-stage rocket that can be configured to launch multiple or even single satellite missions by varying the number of stages. They join SpaceX, Rocket Labs, Blue Origin and others in a race to capture a share of the over 2,500 nanosatellites expected to be launched in the coming year. Of course, beyond launch services, gateways will be needed and in that regard Kongsberg Satellite Services is upgrading its infrastructure to handle the small satellite traffic.
Without doubt, the small satellite segment is growing in importance as increases in processing power and advancements miniaturization are enhancing the scope of potential applications. For those intent on keeping abreast of the rapidly evolving developments, the Small Sat Conference is not to be missed.
Iridium and Rolls-Royce Marine to Expand the Reach and Capabilities of Autonomous Vessels
All the world's waterways are an option for autonomous vessels with the Iridium® network providing pole-to-pole connectivity
MCLEAN, Va., Aug. 30, 2018 -- Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) announced today the signing of a Letter of Intent with smart shipping pioneer Rolls-Royce Marine (RRM), in support of their autonomous vessel development program. Through this arrangement, RRM and Iridium will work together to explore incorporating Iridium's next-generation L-band satellite broadband service, Iridium CertusSM, into the RRM suite of Ship Intelligence solutions. By doing so, RRM will have a resilient and reliable broadband capability that can serve as a standalone option or high throughput backup, while expanding the reach of autonomous vessels to all the world's waterways.
As a leader in the autonomous vessel movement, RRM's solutions deliver multifaceted enhancements to ships, enabling remote diagnostics, operations and performance monitoring capabilities. Among many offerings, these solutions provide remote access to onshore operators and control centers, delivering real-time connectivity and automation. By automating processes such as navigation, crew are able to focus on more valuable areas of vessel operations helping to streamline overall functionality, ushering in a new digital era of shipping.
A strategic part of the maritime industry's future, autonomous ships are being examined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), where they are defining the regulatory environment and degrees of autonomy for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships. The capabilities offered by Iridium Certus will help streamline management of vessel operations, whether for command and control, engine diagnostics, tracking information and other onboard processes for a simple, secure and reliable experience.
"When evaluating partners for our remote and autonomous vessel development program and Ship Intelligence solutions, Iridium is complementing our connectivity strategy for a number of reasons," said Kenneth Solberg, technical product manager, Ship Intelligence, Rolls-Royce Marine. "Their new interconnected Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network is able to provide global coverage with low latencies for both coastal and ocean going vessels, while at the same time having the robustness of the L-band. And being an actor with truly global coverage, including polar regions, vessel owners will have the confidence that wherever they sail their ship, it will stay connected. The small form-factor antennas and terminals enabled by Iridium Certus have no moving parts, reducing the risk of breakdowns, and are built to withstand the harsh conditions at sea. The journey of enabling Iridium Certus to be compliant with RR remote and autonomous operational requirements, sets the stage for an exciting offering that we look forward to begin exploring."
Iridium operates the world's largest, and only pole-to-pole, mobile commercial satellite constellation. The network is comprised of 66 crosslinked LEO satellites that blanket the entire planet with reliable satellite connectivity. The Iridium network enables a portfolio of maritime applications, including voice and data communications, and is poised to supercharge these capabilities with Iridium Certus. Enabled by Iridium NEXT, the Company's next-generation, $3 billion satellite constellation, Iridium Certus will provide high quality voice capabilities, alongside enterprise-grade broadband functionality, for the entire planet, whether on land, in the air or at sea. The service, planned for commercial availability in 2018, will soon after deliver the fastest L-band satellite broadband speeds on the market, through small-form-factor, cost-effective terminals. Initial service offering speeds will debut at 352 Kbps and will later be upgradable to 704 Kbps with a firmware upgrade.
"Enabling the digitalization of shipping is at the core of our strategy for our maritime business, and we are proud to begin exploring this opportunity with Rolls-Royce Marine," said Wouter Deknopper, vice president and general manager, Maritime at Iridium. "Iridium's constellation is an ideal network to support autonomous vessels, due to its inherent resiliency, mobility and truly global coverage. Supporting RRM's revolutionary autonomous vessel initiative is a natural and exciting next step that we are fully equipped to take."
Iridium NEXT is the Company's next-generation satellite constellation currently being launched by SpaceX. To date, there have been seven successful Iridium NEXT launches, deploying 65 new satellites. One launch remains before completion of the company's historic constellation refresh. In total, 75 new satellites are being launched to LEO, of which 66 will be in the active constellation, with nine on-orbit spares.
Boeing to Acquire Millennium Space Systems, Provider of Agile, Flight-proven Small-Satellite Solutions
ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] will acquire Millennium Space Systems, a provider of agile, flight-proven small-satellite solutions, under an acquisition agreement that will expand Boeing's satellite and space portfolio, talent and capabilities.
"Millennium Space Systems' expertise in vertically-integrated small-satellite solutions perfectly complements Boeing's existing satellite portfolio, and will allow us to meet the needs of a diverse customer set," said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "We look forward to incorporating Millennium Space Systems' end-to-end mission solution capabilities into our service offerings in satellite operations and data solutions."
Millennium Space Systems was founded in 2001 and is based in El Segundo, Calif. With approximately 260 employees, the company has developed high-performance satellites for exacting missions ranging from 50 KG to more than 6,000 KG.
"I am proud of the talented and dedicated team we've built at Millennium Space Systems over the past 17 years," said Stan Dubyn, CEO of Millennium Space Systems. "By combining our tools, talent, technologies and culture, we'll be able to do even more incredible things as part of Boeing."
The acquisition, which is subject to customary conditions, is expected to close by the end of third quarter 2018. Once finalized, Millennium Space Systems will become a Boeing subsidiary, operating under its current business model and reporting to Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager of Phantom Works.
The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The transaction will have no impact on Boeing's 2018 financial guidance or the company's commitment to returning approximately 100 percent of free cash flow to shareholders.
Newtec Powers Milano Teleport's Maritme Offerings
MILAN, ITALY, and SINT-NIKLAAS, Belgium, August 6, 2018. Newtec – a specialist in designing, developing and manufacturing equipment and technologies for satellite communications – today announced its Newtec Dialog® multi-service platform is being used by global telecommunications provider Milano Teleport to enrich its services for the maritime market.
Targeting namely yachts (via the “Orbis Yacht” brand) and cruise liners (with “iSeaglobal”) which both require very high-bandwidth connectivity, especially now during the height of the maritime season for yachts in the Middle East. Milano Teleport is mainly using two types of Newtec modems depending on the throughput required – Newtec’s MDM33xx and the MDM5000 Satellite Modem series. A number of vessels are already in service, with Milano Teleport seeing significantly reduced Operational Expenditure (OpEx) as a result of the Newtec Dialog hub located at its teleport in Italy.
“As a globally recognized telecommunications and Internet provider, remaining customer-centric and meeting the specific needs of each market we operate in is at the top of our agenda,” said Luca Massaro, Chief Technology Officer at Milano Teleport. “We chose Newtec Dialog due to the capabilities it brings to our maritime portfolio such as very high data rates and increased efficiency which enables us to serve our most demanding customers very cost-effectively. Thanks to Newtec’s modems and its Mx-DMA® bandwidth allocation technology, we can deliver improved bandwidth utilization with the highest level of efficiency to ensure our customers continuously enjoy on-board connectivity at all times.”
Newtec Dialog features the award-winning return link technology Mx-DMA, which delivers the efficiency of SCPC with the dynamic bandwidth allocation of MF-TDMA. This enables the operator to expand customers’ capacity as and when required, ensuring best-cost performance, bandwidth efficiency and reliability of services. The platform combines this with sophisticated mobility functionality including unique flexibility to manage beam switching in a global network.
Milano Teleport is also taking advantage of the multi-service capability Newtec Dialog brings. In addition to offering maritime services over the infrastructure, it is using the same Newtec Dialog hub to deliver broadband connectivity services in Africa. Newtec’s certified business partner Diem Technologies was also involved in the project, especially in the project planning phase and to support the distribution.
AireonSM System Deployment Continues with Seventh Successful Launch
65 Aireon Payloads Are Now in Orbit As Game-Changing Global Air Traffic Surveillance Service Nears Debut
MCLEAN, Va. – July 25, 2018 – Aireon announced today the seventh successful launch and deployment of its space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) payloads, hosted by the Iridium® NEXT satellite constellation. At 04:39:30 AM PDT (11:39:30 UTC), a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and placed 10 new Iridium NEXT satellites into low earth orbit, bringing the total number of Aireon payloads in orbit to 65. This leaves just a single launch of 10 more Iridium NEXT satellites and their Aireon payloads before the launch campaign concludes later this year. The Aireon system is scheduled to go live in 2018 with operational deployment beginning shortly after that domestically in the Edmonton and Gander Flight Information Regions. Operational trials in oceanic airspace over the North Atlantic will begin in early 2019.
Upon completion of the new network, the Aireon system will enable never-before possible capabilities for air navigation service providers (ANSPs), air traffic controllers, airline operators and industry stakeholders. Oceanic and remote airspace will, for the first time, have real-time air traffic surveillance, allowing further enhanced safety, as well as on-the-fly route adjustments, more direct flight paths and increased predictability.
“We’re getting closer to the finish line,” said Don Thoma, CEO of Aireon. “Perhaps most exciting though is that the system has been functioning beyond expectation, resulting in even greater coverage redundancy than initially planned. We’re seeing double coverage, and in many cases triple redundancy from our payloads before the constellation is even completed. With this seventh successful launch completed, we’re now preparing to begin a new era for the aviation industry.”
The Unspoken Risks of OneWeb and the Mega-LEOs
Russia's recent denial of licensing for OneWeb is but one of many unspoken risks now confronting the developers of the major "Internet-for-all" LEO constellations. For those who seek to bury their heads in the altruistic dream of "connectivity for all," a rude awakening may be on the horizon.
While there is little doubt that these constellations can be built, licensing and other formidable barriers exist including establishing business entities in 190 + countries, competition from GEOs, other LEOs and MEOs, fiber, and selling and installing infrastructure and servicing customers in remote and inaccessible geographies. While universal connectivity is a noble philanthropic initiative, these barriers suggest it may not be a profitable one.
Due to the challenges and time frames associated with overcoming these barriers, no one knows for sure how long it might take to reach or even come close to global market penetration, making revenue and cash flow projections, at best, unreliable. In addition to being exposed to the uncertainties associated with licensing and business formation, OneWeb and its competitors face other huge and unspoken risks.
Poorly Defined Target Markets:
In the case of OneWeb and Starlink and others, the target market is the poor and under served user, a market in which the customer's ability to pay is questionable.
In a recent article entitled Satellite and the Arrival of Telecom Pricing, NSR Analyst, Gagan Agrawal, examines the question of whether satellite can compete with terrestrial.
He notes in his article that Jio telecom in India is offering its customers 1.5 GB of data per/day for$6 for three months and goes on to state that "...matching the price with Jio would be extremely difficult for satcom and in a location India/Africa where food and electricity can be scarce, it's hard to see customers paying anything more than Jio pricing in the age of video consumption." Needless to say, selling to and supporting customers who pay $24 per/year for service is a less than an attractive business prospect.
Keep in mind that we are not talking about users in developed countries who currently pay around $60 per/month. We are talking about users who subsist on annual incomes below $1,000 per/year. Apart from this ill defined and relatively unattractive target market, consider the obstacles to licensing.
International licensing of LEO constellations is an enormously complex process. Coordination with GEOs at the ITU level is but one piece of a puzzle that involves different and complex licensing requirements in each and every country.
For example, the same spectrum in which a OneWeb or Starlink operates must be allocated for satellite use in each target country. In addition, around 40 countries require licensing for landing rights, and many have additional licensing requirements for broadband or "common carrier" licensing. Licensing of gateways is an even more complex problem.
Assuming, as is usually the case, OneWeb needs to own their gateways - a problem compounded by the lack of the constellation's inter-satellite linkage. To do so, they will have to establish a corporate entity in around 50 countries or partner with a local entity, and they may have to pay high spectrum fees.
Thus, those in charge of regulatory compliance in these LEO satellite companies must "cherry pick" countries that have friendly regulatory environments to allow for rapid ramp up of the business, if their ventures are to achieve early positive cash flow.
The bottom line is that quickly overcoming global licensing and business obstacles will be like putting together a giant jig saw puzzle piece by piece, while racing against time to assure the early cash flow necessary to sustain business operations and long term survival of the business.
No better example of the difficulties in obtaining licensing is illustrated by the recent Russian denial of landing rights for OneWeb. In this case, the inability to obtain licensing in a major geographical country shrinks the overall market.
In addition, other satellite capable countries such as China, Brazil, India and Indonesia could also deny landing rights and launch their own LEOs, further limiting available market. In fact, China has already proposed a joint venture with Russia to launch a LEO constellation competitive with OneWeb which would block out China for competitors. Here, it's important to note that unlike GEOs, licensing of LEOs involves ceding of Ku or Ka-Band spectrum rights over an entire country.
Given that each country has the exclusive rights to allocate its own spectrum, regardless of the ITU, the risk of additional licensing denials cannot be underestimated.
As Tom Choi, former CEO of ABS, states in his recently published article on LinkedIn, Nations Fight Back Against the Coming of the NGSO Apocalypse, in the LEO model, countries would be "giving up the use of spectrum in all of the sky over their sovereign territory. Unlike a GEO network where all the satellites are concentrated in a single equatorial arc, NGSO systems are everywhere in the sky." So, there is significant potential for interference with terrestrial radio transmitters on mountains, buildings or towers.
Tom goes on to note that, as such, "the need to give up so much spectrum for use by NGSO satellite operators has not been fully considered by many regulators, but they are waking up."
Not only does this potential spectrum grab raise the possibility of denial of landing rights in third world countries, but also presents the potential for a "toll" to be assessed for landing rights in these countries - an action that would make market entry even more costly, if it is allowed at all.
Beyond licensing, establishing independent operating business entities or partnerships with cellular operators in dozens of third world subsistence economies represents a formidable challenge.
Building a Business Infrastructure:
Connecting users where cellular infrastructure does not exists involves either the use of cellular backhaul via satellite, or providing Internet to receivers on the roofs of buildings and rebroadcasting via cellular protocol or WiFi.
In the satellite backhaul market, NGSOs would have to compete with GEOs and O3B as well as fiber. As we all know, fiber is expanding rapidly and can be magnitudes less expensive than delivering broadband by LEO satellites, is not rain fade sensitive - a critical consideration for the use of Ka-Band in the tropics - and does not need to be renewed every few years. So the NGSO operators would have to reach pricing levels competitive with fiber and some may still have to deal with the rain fade issue.
In the direct to consumer model, the challenging is even more daunting.
In consumer markets, building a profitable business means selling, installing, servicing , billing and collecting from the customer and doing it in hundreds of countries, many with limited transportation infrastructure. Even if undertaken by partners in country, the logistical challenges would be formidable.
Competition on the Rise:
Apart from the potential for licensing denials or market entry "tolls," and competition from new LEO entrants, the LEOs face severe competition from HTS GEO operators who have staked out and established markets for their services long before the LEOs enter. By the time One Web is able to fully compete, ViaSat and Eutelsat will have launched massive new satellites and even SES will have expanded mPOWER.
Combined, these companies and Hughes already control most of the consumer broadband market in Europe and the U.S. So, any business from the underdeveloped world will be incremental. While for LEOs, it will be primary. Thus, supported by revenues from their developed markets, the GEOs could drive prices down in the underdeveloped world crushing LEO competitors.
As over capacity takes it toll, consolidation and bankruptcies in the operator segment are inevitable. As late comers to the game, the global LEOs will be more vulnerable than their GEO and MEO HTS competitors, having to build their subscriber bases from scratch.
Of course, adding huge increases of HTS LEO capacity to the already over supplied HTS GEO market can only drive per megabit pricing lower, further threatening operator profitability and pushing the weaker players into bankruptcy.
Time is Short and The Struggle to Achieve Profitability:
As the orbital life of LEOs is short, LEO operators will also be faced with the challenge of proving their viability before massive amounts of capital are required to launch replacement satellites. How quickly these constellations can reach the critical mass of subscribers necessary to sustain them in this environment is a question that remains largely unspoken.
Given the market uncertainties involved and the multi-billion dollar cost of building and replenishing these constellations, it's little wonder that this sort of investment is suitable only for the most risk tolerant investors or investors who have little or no risk at all, as in the case of OneWeb where, for the most part, seed investment is from companies who receive huge contracts to build the constellation, thereby negating most of their risk.
In our view, smaller markets for the mega LEOs combined with licensing difficulties, challenges in establishing and running business in often corrupt countries, limited discretionary income of end users, intensive competition from HTS GEOs and fiber, will be almost impossible to overcome. Whether the LEOs can achieve their goal of universal access and make a profit is, in our view, highly improbable.
As with O3b, we believe OneWeb and others will be forced to abandon their philanthropic visions of universal access and identify and concentrate on building enough positions in niche markets where profitability is possible, if they are to survive at all.
"Licensing of LEO constellations is a enormously complex and challenging process. Coordination with GEOS at the ITU level is but one piece of a puzzle that involves different licensing requirements in 190 countries."
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As the new CEO of SES, industry veteran, Steve Collar, now heads an industry facing huge, disruptive challenges - a vast surplus of HTS capacity, the coming of the new LEO constellations and convergence with 5G technology. To help us understand the magnitude of these forces and how they will change the industry, we were delighted when Steve excepted our invitation and agreed to discuss the current environment, its challenges and the road ahead for SES.
SMW: As the new head of SES, what changes, if any, are you planning in company's strategic direction and how do you envision the company evolving in the next 3-5 years? Can you share with us your principal areas of strategic focus and, in particular, comment on your plans for deployment of the mPOWER network?
Steve Collar: Alan, I am really excited by what I see in both the present and the future for SES. Short term, we have delivered two good quarters this year so far. Underlying revenue is growing again at SES on the back of double-digit growth at SES Networks.
Four successful launches in the last 6 months have given us great momentum across a number of verticals including, most prominently, maritime, aviation and government. And, of course, all of these markets and verticals are key targets for O3b mPOWER, a system that we can’t wait to get our hands on.
O3b mPOWER is more than just seven new satellites, it is a fully integrated end-to-end ecosystem that we are building with our partners that will exponentially scale the power and coverage of our MEO constellation. Since announcing the O3b mPOWER ecosystem exactly one year ago, we have made considerable progress, and I believe mPOWER has the potential to revolutionize the industry.
SMW: There are seven new mPower satellites with advanced, phased array antennas capable of “beam forming." Can you tell us how the capabilities of the new satellites compare to the original O3b satellites and how these new, advanced satellites will work with the existing O3b constellation?
Steve Collar: O3b mPOWER is the next generation of O3b satellites. We are taking the lessons that we have learned in building O3b, using the same orbit, the same operations, the heritage from the system and then scaling it massively.
O3b mPOWER leverages the knowledge, experience and heritage of the current O3b network but radically scales those things that directly impact our customers and our markets. O3b is a fantastic system and delivers a practically unlimited amount of bandwidth anywhere on the planet to a relatively few number of nodes or customer end points. O3b mPOWER will enable us to deliver this same capability everywhere simultaneously.
For example, we are currently serving cruise ships or major cities in land-locked Africa via the O3b constellation and delivering networks measured in Gbps to relatively few locations.
With O3b mPOWER, we will be able to provide this kind of capability across the entire maritime segment, and not just in cruise, to the aero environment and across an entire country, whether it’s urban, semi-rural and rural areas, and not just major populations. This creates enormous scale in the network - instead of having hundreds of nodes, we will have thousands or even hundreds of thousands of nodes.
By radically increasing throughput available, we will be the first system to deliver a Terabit (Tbps) globally with the first seven satellites, driving down the cost per bit delivered to our customers, and, what is more, the system is entirely scalable. I see lower cost per bit as an absolute enabler for expanding the number of users in a connected world.
If we are going to be relevant for 5G and a Cloud environment, we’ll have to radically increase the amount of bandwidth we can bring to the market. That is what we intend to do with O3b mPOWER. If we can do that, we can transform mobility services and solutions as well as position SES to be an important part of a fixed data world dominated by 5G, IOT and Cloud technologies.
SMW: SES is a major participant in the Sat5G Consortium. I understand that there are several areas in which satellite can complement 5G infrastructure including handling signaling (i.e. transmission of signaling data to micro cells at the Edge thereby enhancing the 5G data capacity), satellite backhaul and point to multi-point transmission of video for caching at the Edge. First, are there any other promising areas for use of 5G over satellite and secondly, won’t 5G protocols need to be refined to accommodate transmission over satellite?
Steve Collar: 5G offers the potential to be transformational for the whole telecoms industry, and it is incredibly important that we, as an industry, look to make satellite an integral part of the 5G connected world. We have some pretty well-formed ideas as to how that happens, such as leveraging the O3b mPOWER system including intelligence and capability within our ground systems and terminals, but we certainly don’t have all the answers. That is why the demonstrations and test beds that we are involved in are so important. We are in a good position to contribute to the discussions around integrating satellite and terrestrial environments given that we are the first satellite operator to achieve MEF Carrier Ethernet 2.0 certification and are contributing innovation to open source initiatives such as the Linux Foundation and ONAP.
SMW: As the former CEO of O3b, you must be very familiar with the landing rights issues associated with plans for the new LEO constellations.
How difficult will it be for operators planning these constellations to secure landing rights and, in particular, in Russia, China, India and Brazil? Can you describe the process and comment on the difficulties involved?
Steve Collar: Securing landing rights is a tough and multi-year process. It's about relationships and engagement, and it's also about having a system that's fully defensible. Countries would want to know that your constellation is sound technically and is not going to cause interference with any of their domestic terrestrial or satellite networks.
They would also want to make sure they don't create a precedent where they can't launch similar satellite services in the future. All of those issues are in the conversation, making licensing a tedious and time-consuming process.
There will definitely be obstacles in this area that may have not been considered in the conception of the LEO networks. The questions that regulators will ask will be hard to answer, making the approval process meaningfully slower than anticipated. Considering the increased complexity of these constellations, there is no doubt it's a long road ahead.
The relationships with governments and regulators SES has been built up over decades around the world is a core skill of critical importance to us. We have teams based around the world whose jobs are to understand the requirements of governments and regulators as we have developed not only new orbital slots but also new constellations.
New systems come with a whole new set of questions and I believe that will apply to the LEO systems where governments are going to want to be sure that a system of hundreds or potentially thousands of satellites will not interfere with their own domestic systems, particularly in Ku-Band where the geostationary arc is full.
There are also questions to be answered around the adequacy of plans to dispose of satellites at the end of their lifetime and we see regulators particularly focused on that issue. We all have a responsibility to protect and preserve the space environment.
SMW: If launched, what effect will the LEO constellations have on existing HTS GEOs? Can GEO HTS co-exist with HTS LEO constellations like OneWeb, Starlink and Telesat or will the LEOs ultimately dominate the industry?
Steve Collar: We have been very clear that our priority is in GEO and MEO HTS and increasingly integrating those two through intelligent terminals on the ground. We have done that for a reason.
I don't think that the current generation of LEOs is massively compelling or competitive, and I am yet to be persuaded that LEO offers any benefit over the architecture that we have developed.
However, I don't think, as you say, that GEOs have "locked up" the market. The market is big, and I think the market will grow. I think there is a market for the LEO networks, but that the road ahead of them is a long one.
Their time frames to deploy are going to be much longer than anticipated and the challenges greater. I believe it's going to be a long time before these networks are competing against us and in the interim, we will be driving hard. We have a time to market advantage, and that our mPOWER offering is quite compelling.
Provided that we get the performance and the economics right, and we successfully integrate with broader ecosystems and partners and market, we will have a great future. In the long term, the market will be more than large enough to support all systems. Our collective challenge will be keeping up!
The exciting thing is the amount of innovation and optimism around the future role of satellite in data networks. This hasn’t been the case for years and I think it is well founded.
SMW: Nanosatellite technology is advancing rapidly. Imaging applications are now widespread and broadband communications appear to be on the horizon as well as S Band for thin line IoT and voice.
For example, Gomspace is developing Ka-Band radios, Sky and Space Global is doing S Band for IoT data and voice, Hiber is using HF radio to transmit data. Given these advancements, do you expect nanosatellite LEOs infringe on larger LEOs or the GEOs market share? Would SES consider launching and deploying nanosatellites?
Steve Collar: We are open minded. We see the movement toward small satellites as complementary rather than competitive. So far, it's a niche market mostly focused on imaging applications, although I do note some interesting IoT applications. However, I don’t think we will be making moves in this area any time soon but again, I love the ambition and innovation.
SMW: Given the high cost of traditional, mechanically steered and tracking antennas, Flat panel Electronically Steered Antennas must be an important priority for SES given the expansion plans for O3b and SES’ increased focus on maritime and aviation markets. Can you give us an idea of your progress and efforts obtain and deploy this new antenna hardware?
Steve Collar: When we announced O3b mPOWER we stressed that it was an ecosystem, and not just a bunch of satellites. We had wanted to engage the industry, from customer through the vendor supply chain, and this has been very much our experience in the first year.
We have subsequently started to work with three companies that use different ESA technologies and are at varying levels of product maturity to develop terminals for O3b mPOWER. That said, I am also a believer in mechanically steered systems and believe that we have the ability to simplify and reduce the cost of these systems. Our latest O3b compatible system includes technology developed in the field of robotics and is cheap, simple and reliable. The different verticals in which we are involved drive radically different use cases and I don’t believe one size fits all.
SMW: With the advent of IoT and increasingly complex satellite networks, satellite cyber security is becoming more and more important. What is SES doing to reduce the risk?
Steve Collar: Cyber has always been a focus for us, firstly in securing our satellite network but also more recently in helping to secure our customers networks and information. The threats are growing, and becoming more sophisticated, and so our response to those threats has to as well. We have several initiatives ongoing across our network, most of which I don’t wish to expand on but including a project with ESA to look at the secure distribution of quantum keys that may form an important component of future secure networks.
SMW: Bandwidth pricing for HTS is continuing to decline. Can you give us a current update on the current supply/demand balance and your expectation for near and mid-term pricing?
Steve Collar: I am on record as saying that I believe lower price per Mbps delivered to the end user is a net positive thing for satellite delivered data networks. Indeed, it is mandatory as we transition from a world where satellite delivered data is niche and expensive to one where satellite is part of a larger ecosystem.
This causes short-term disruption but long-term benefit if properly managed, and ultimately leads to a larger and more diverse market for us. SES Networks is growing at a rate of 12-15% per annum at the moment despite ‘price decline’. This shows that it is possible to deliver more value to customers and still grow profitably.
SMW: As satellites are faced with falling bandwidth pricing and increased competition in generic bandwidth markets, there is considerable pressure to “move down the value chain” and create fully integrated enterprises combining operator and integrator. Is this practical given the potential for “channel conflict” and, if not, what else can satellite operators do to lessen the impact of contracting margins and falling prices?
Steve Collar: : I don’t think that it is falling bandwidth prices that ‘oblige’ satellite operators to move into the value chain. It always comes down to the ability, whether operator or not, to deliver a compelling service to the end user. We have a clear view on markets in which we can do this ourselves, and offer a more strategic relationship to our customers, and those in which others can do this better than us.
We have a number of strategic channel partners who we team with, and provide a wide range of benefits, systems and tools to enable them to develop differentiated service offerings for their customers and end users. This reduces any perceived channel conflict, aligns our interests and, most importantly, delivers great solutions to end users across the SES system.
SMW: Thank you, Steve for your very insightful observations and comments.
Leading in the New Satellite Era
An Interview with SES' new President and CEO, Steve Collar
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"Securing landing rights is a tough and multi-year process. It's about relationships and engagement, and it's also about having a system that's fully defensible. Countries would want to know that your constellation is sound technically and is not going to cause interference with any of their domestic terrestrial or satellite networks.
They would also want to make sure they don't create a precedent where they can't launch similar satellite services in the future. All of those issues are in the conversation, making licensing a tedious and time-consuming process." u
"I don't think that the current generation of LEOs is massively compelling or competitive, and I am yet to be persuaded that LEO offers any benefit over the architecture that we have developed." "
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Steve Collar is President and CEO of SES
Steve was appointed CEO of SES in April of 2018.
Prior to his appointment , Steve was CEO of SES Networks as well as O3b Networks. Steve guided the company through the successful build and launch of its constellation of state-of-the-art satellites. In 2015 O3b Networks became the fastest growing satellite operator in history. In 2016, O3b was fully acquired by SES and now forms an integral part of SES Networks.
Mr. Collar is a satellite industry veteran, having previously worked in a variety of commercial, business development and technical roles at SES WORLD SKIES, New Skies Satellites, Astrium and Matra Marconi Space (now Airbus).
HawkEye 360: RF Imaging's New Eye in the Sky
Borne out of a desire to locate, identify and track RF emissions around the world, HawkEye 360 emerges as a fascinating, new satellite based, analytics company with applications that extend from supporting government needs to vessels tracking, upgrading cellular networks, monitoring satellite interference and a wide variety of other commercial applications.
Founded by CTO, Chris DeMay, who once led satellite development programs at the government's National Reconnaissance Office, the company builds upon the expertise of professors Dr. Charles Clancy and Bob McGwier of Virginia Tech and focuses on the application of RF data analytics.
Since its founding in 2015, HawkEye 360 has secured several rounds of funding including a recent $9.6 million round. Led by CEO, John Serafini, a former executive of Allied Mines, the venture firm that provided the initial seed funding for the company, HawkEye 360 is well on the way to developing its unique analytical platform and satellite capabilities. To find out more about this innovative NewSpace company, we met with CTO and founder, Chris DeMay.
SMW: Chris, can you give tell us more about the focus of the company including origin of the concept, and the technology involved?
Chis DeMay: Prior to launching HawkEye 360, I spent 14 years working on RF projects for the U.S. government and learning about the commercial innovations taking place in the Small Satellite Community. Based on the successful commercialization of space-based imagery using small sat technology, I saw a similar opportunity for a company with RF analytic capability and ultimately realized that combining satellite acquisition of data with a data analytics platform would be of great value.
We are now pursuing the goal of building a company of that design and will be relying upon our own, soon-to-be-launched constellation of microsatellites to support our vision. One of the great advantages of using microsatellites is their relatively low cost and the ability to frequently upgrade the capabilities of the constellation.
Our satellites will be unique in that they will be equipped with software programmable radios and antennas capable of receiving and isolating signals across a very broad range of frequencies. Using data obtained from the satellites some of our capabilities will include:
Providing valuable intelligence information to key government agencies
In commercial applications including plotting the propagation of RF emissions from satellites dishes, cellular towers and many other RF sources to survey spectrum use and identify interference.
Identifying and track ships at sea , even in the absence of AIS signal, especially useful in tracking illicit activities such as violation of sanctions, piracy and illegal fishing.
Enhancing border control and monitoring infrastructure, such as during disasters.
Essentially, we will be a product company with a variety of report outputs for different applications.
For one customer, the product could be as simple as a map indicating cellular signal propagation or the locations of all the AIS signals in the South China Sea. For another, we could have a report in which we plot and correlate all of the radio emissions coming off a vessel. Of course, for data not available in our database, we will have the capability to task our satellites to obtain it.
SMW: When you will launch the first satellites, how many will be needed to complete the constellation, how long it will take to launch the full constellation, and when you will be able to offer commercial services.
Chris DeMay: Our launch plans include having 30 microsatellites in orbit by 2022 and as the life of the satellites is 3-5 years, we will be in replenishment mode by that time. Our first cluster of three satellites which we call the Pathfinder is intended to demonstrate our capabilities and is scheduled for launch fourth quarter of this year aboard a brokered Space X Falcon 9 launch vehicle. In total, we anticipate no more than ten launches.
Each Pathfinder hosts a software defined radio and antennas capable of tuning , on demand, to frequencies from 144 MHz up to 15 GHz enabling us, for example, to isolate emissions from cellular towers, satellites or any other source within our available frequency range. The use of software defined radios is advantageous in that it allows for upgrade of frequency detection capabilities while satellites are in orbit.
In addition, formation flying – flying three satellites in close proximity – allows us to tune three separate receivers to the same signal at the same time thereby enabling the determination of a an emitter's position through triangulation..
SMW: As you know, tracking of ships at sea is done through the use of satellite based receivers tuned to the AIS frequency. Orbcomm, exactEarth and others companies are already do this. Can you explain how your RF tracking solution differs from these approaches?
Chris DeMay: In the case of Orbcomm and exactEarth, AIS position data is obtained from self reporting transmitters located onboard the vessels. In the case of HawkEye 360, we can detect all of the the RF emissions from a vessel. This includes all RF such as the AIS, transmission, C and Ku Band VSAT transmission, VHS maritime radio or even emissions from maritime radar. Essentially, the combination of these signals enables us to create a unique vessel profile which will be stored in our database.
As our database grows to encompass thousands of ships, we will be able to identify and track vessels even if they disable their AIS transmissions or spoof the signal to hide their exact location - obvious advantages in detecting illicit activities.
AIS has limitations based on its original design which was to enable clusters of ships to see each other and avoid collisions, but not to receive positioning data from thousands of ships over a wide swath of several hundred or thousands of kilometers of ocean.
In that application, AIS is subject to interference due to the limited number of channels available in the system. So, while AIS solutions are capable of putting thousands of dots indicating location over a vast area of sea, the AIS data tends to have gaps. Our ability to apply proprietary geolocation algorithms adds significant value to the AIS market.
SMW: In terms of delivery of ship position, both Orbcomm and exactEarth deliver positioning information in real time. You note your applicability to emergency response as well to have this capability as well and note its applicability to emergency response as well.
As you are using a constellation of satellites, how do you avoid the delay associated with ground station acquisition of the satellites and download of the information – a problem faced by polar orbiting imaging satellites? Are your satellites inter-linked or are you transmitting the data to GEOs and then to ground to avoid delay?
Chris DeMay: That’s a good question. It’s fair to say the HawkEye 360 will be pursuing near real time solutions once our constellation is built out. Initially, we'll have a 4-6 hour revisit rate- more like a 2-3 hour time frame initially.
As we launch more satellites we can come closer to real time delivery of data. Ultimately, we envision a constellation involving ten clusters of three satellites, each in different orbital planes that give us 30 microsatellites or ten clusters of three satellites each in different orbital planes that gives us somewhere between a 15 to 30-minute revisit across the planet.
Our first satellites will be launched in sun sync orbit so the polar orbit gives us great global coverage but since we want to increase our revisit at lower latitudes, it’s our intent is to launch satellites at lower inclinations – perhaps 60 degrees, 30 degrees, etc. or near equatorial. A lot of the uses cases that we are looking at, especially for maritime domain awareness, are focused on regions warmer climates which would require lower inclinations. The growing small satellite market is enabling affordable access to those inclinations.
I should add that optical imaging satellites typically cover a very narrow area vs. our satellites that have a very broad field of view encompassing thousands of kilometers. At lower frequencies, we can see about 5,000 kilometers from limb to limb. So, that improves our availability and timeliness to collect data.
Also, our payloads are also low power and our Pathfinder satellites are sun synchronous which means half the time they will be facing the sun with access to power from the solar arrays. So, we will be able to operate 50 to 80 per-cent of the time.
SMW: In your product literature, you mention your “ground-based analytics platform.” You go on to mention that the platform enables the fusion of “open source data,” commercial satellite imagery, digital terrain elevation data and HawkEye 360 RF data and enables the creating of analytical reports for commercial and government customers. Can you give us examples of the type of reports generated, their specific application, and type of customer?
Chris DeMay: One example is illegal fishing, in which we need to determine where there is illicit vessel behavior in the open ocean. This starts by building an RF profile of the ship i.e. identifying th ship and determining their typical activity patterns, time spent in economic exclusion zones, etc. Using algorithms that monitor a confluence of these factors , we will be able to predict the likelihood that a detected vessel is engaged in illicit activities.
SMW: In your literature, you mention both government and commercial markets. Which market(s) and types of organizations and departments will you target initially and how will you sell the services?
Chris DeMay: Initially, we have been characterizing the need for our data across many government agencies and anticipate these to be among our first customers. But as our technology has numerous commercial applications, we will be quickly deploying products targeted at serving telecommunication companies such as wireless and VSAT providers, among other commercial applications. RF geoanalytics is a new field that we are still exploring and learning all the market demands for this data.
SMW: Can you give us an idea how the company will look in five years?
From a technology and infrastructure perspective, I envision HawkEye will have a fully built out constellation and we will have begun to replenish the satellites. This means we will have our latest generation of technology in orbit, and it will be supported by the latest generation of on-orbit software, able to detect as many signal types as possible. By that time, we will have a large customer base that is not only helping us from our software will also be of the latest generation able to detect as many frequencies as possible. By that time we expect to have a large customer base that is not only helping us from a revenue perspective but assisting us in further advancing our analytic technology and markets.
SMW: Thank you, Chris for explaining your technology and sharing your vision.
A New Solution for Vessel Tracking Using Radio Frequency Emissions
About Chris DeMay:
Chris DeMay, HawkEye 360’s founder and CTO, came up with the idea for HawkEye 360 while an employee of the U.S. Federal Government, where he was responsible for the results-drive execution of budget, schedule, and performance for a portfolio of over 25 space-based intelligence technology development projects and programs totaling more than $500 million.
He obtained an MS in Systems Engineering and a BS in Business Information Technology, both from Virginia Tech. Mr. DeMay is a member of the prestigious AFCEA Intelligence Committee, and the proud recipient of AFCEA’s 40 Under 40 Award, the NRO Gold Medal of Distinguished Performance, and the Frank Beamer Award for Exceptional Service.
VT iDirect's V.P. of Emerging Products, Greg Quiggle...
Ever since its inception, the satellite industry has lived on the edge of the greater telecommunications world. Running on its own proprietary waveforms and largely under IP protocol, it has distributed a vast amount of video and data. Now, with the coming of 5G, satellite has the opportunity to integrate itself into the wider world of mass telecommunication and to be a much more important part of the global telecommunications communication infrastructure.
This is a great opportunity, and around the world, satellite operators, hub and modem manufacturers are gathering in 5G working groups along with cellular operators and PTTs to create a unified 5G protocol that will assure interoperability across all platforms. At this critical moment, its important to understand how these new networks will function and how satellite can enhance their ability to deliver voice, M2M communication, data and video across the broader 5G infrastructure.
At VT iDirect, this integration effort is well underway, and to understand how 5G differs from the current 4G technology, how satellite infrastructure will need to change to facilitate integration with 5G, as well as the specific roles satellite will play, we sat down at VT iDirect headquarters in front of a white board with Greg Quiggle, iDirect's V.P. of Emerging Products.
SMW: Greg, can you explain to us how 5G has evolved, how it is different from our existing 4G technology.
Greg Quiggle: Most people think that 5G is about speed. It is true that 5G promises faster connect speeds, but the primary emphasis of the new standard is make the network more flexible to support a broader range of use cases that aren’t optimally served by today’s 4G networks.
Putting the 5G New Radio (5GNR) standard aside for the moment, much of this flexibility comes from the adoption of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Slicing. Today, networks need to carry a broad range of voice, video, Internet, private networking and IoT traffic, and as many hope, someday connect millions of autonomous cars.
Each of these applications is unique in terms of bandwidth and latency requirements. 5G enables the wireless network to dynamically configure itself to optimally serve each of these diverse applications on demand, often referred to as “orchestration.” This is accomplished by SDN and Network Slicing. To understand how this is done, let's look at how cellular networks have evolved.
The early networks only carried voice, and they consisted of a switch which was connected to the PSTN and base stations which connected to the user's cell phone.
In these legacy networks, most of the "intelligence" was hosted in the switch. As the network evolved to better handle packet data and operator roaming, the legacy switching network was replaced by an Evolved Packet Core (EPC), which serves as the basis for today’s 4G networks. However, the intelligence that runs today’s 4G networks is still largely dependent on centralized EPC components, such as a Packet Gateway (P-GW) and Serving Gateway (S-GW).
5G changes this by first virtualizing the individual functions of a P-GW and S-GW and then dynamically distributing them from the core of the network all the way to the base station based on the demands of an individual user.
In this new infrastructure, even the end-user device that was once a simple handset is now often customized for a broad range of use cases. So, it's now referred to more generally as a User Endpoint or "UE."
Let's look at two different examples. Let's say we have an air conditioner that needs to send temperature information several times a day. In what is essentially an IoT application, the amount of traffic and latency restrictions are minimal. In this case, most of the 5G network functions would remain centralized, but the required network resources to support them would be minimized, preserving valuable resource for other higher performance applications.
Now, consider the autonomous car. In that application, latency is absolutely critical. Cars nearby need to talk to each other, and it has to happen in 10 milliseconds or less. To meet these stringent latency requirements, most of the 5G network functions must be distributed to the edge of the network, in some cases all the way to the base station. This enables cars served by a common base station to communicate with minimal reliance on the network core, thereby meeting the application's extreme latency requirement. This is how SDN creates a much more flexible network by allocating the specific network resources required for each application on demand and doing it for as many as required simultaneously.
What's important to remember here is that satellite can play a complementary role in these dynamic networks for applications with modest latency requirements if and only if satellite networks were able to interface with these standards-based 5G network functions and associated protocols. That's why we at iDirect are actively engaged in so many 5G working groups, to assure that our future solutions are compatible with the evolving 5G standards and in turn to make sure the 5G standards properly accommodate satellite.
SMW: You covered the concept of Network Slicing. What other elements are unique in a 5G Network? What about "Millimeter Wave" and smart, beam forming antennas?
Greg Quiggle: 5G will achieve its higher connect speeds in a number of ways. While SDN ensures network resources are dynamically orchestrated to support a high speed connection, it’s important to note that the radio access network must also evolve to support faster wireless connections to the UE.
As you have probably heard, most 5G networks will initially run over higher frequencies than 4G. Commonly discussed bands include 3-6 GHz, which overlaps with C-Band satellite and 26-30GHz, which overlaps with Ka-Band satellite, often referred to as "millimeter wave" within the wireless industry. These frequencies are capable of carrying extreme bandwidth, but unfortunately, over only shorter distances.
So, initially, we see the impact of 5G in densely populated urban areas.
Instead of a minimal number of conventional base stations in a city, we will see thousands of mini-base stations. This combination of ultra-high frequency transmission across short distances will enable latencies of under 10 milliseconds which could support the autonomous vehicle.
Further enhancing network speed will be the use of beam forming antennas. In today's mobile wireless networks, antennas on cell towers and in the UE broadcast and receive in omni-directional patterns.
In a 5G network, energy can be concentrated in beams aimed precisely at handset or UE, facilitating much higher speed transmission of data. So, to summarize, SDN, higher operating frequencies, and the use of smart, beam forming antennas all work in concert to provide the much higher connect speeds promised by a 5G network.antennas.
SMW: Now that you have explained the basics of a 5G network, how do you integrate satellite into a 5G network, and where does it fit in terms of applications?
Greg Quiggle: You will recall that I mentioned that hub and modem infrastructure must be able to interface with standards-based 5G network functions and associated protocols.
By incorporating these interfaces and the associated orchestration framework, our hub starts to function like a 5G base station.
So, it can directly participate within a dynamic 5G network to support a wide range of voice and data services. In addition to interfacing with 5G network functions, we are exploring the possibility of adopting the 5GNR standard, the same waveform that the 5G base station uses to communicate with the "UEs."
Should we be successful in that effort, a common iDirect UE could directly connect with vehicles in rural areas over satellite while connecting with 5G base stations in metro areas when 5G terrestrial coverage exists. This assumes, of course, the vehicles are equipped with the appropriate antennas.
So, if we can support the 5G standard, satellite can serve a variety of use cases, especially those that benefit from satellite's multi-cast capabilities such as software updates for car manufacturers, infotainment for passengers, broadcast audio/video and even regional traffic, weather or AMBER alerts.
Latency for these applications is not critical. With satellite integrated into the network, an intelligent 5G network would automatically engage satellite when appropriate. Multi-cast services could be deployed in both urban and rural environments, preserving high-value wireless spectrum for latency-sensitive services. In rural areas, satellite could be used more broadly to carry traditional voice, Internet and data and emergency services directly to the UE in areas where 5G wireless coverage doesn’t exist.
You can even expand that to broader connected vehicle applications where agricultural and construction vehicles need to be connected in rural areas for management and progress updates.
So, this is our vision. Through adoption of the 5G standards, our industry moves from a peripheral position in the global communications infrastructure to one centric to the objective of achieving a truly connected world.
SMW: Thank you. I'm certain our reader's will now have a greater grasp of the significance of 5G and the opportunities it presents to the satellite industry.
For more Information:
Securing Satellite's Place in 5G's Mobility World
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About Greg Quiggle :
Greg currently serves as the Vice President, Emerging Products at VT iDirect.
In this role he is responsible driving strategic market development for emerging LEO satellite, 5G and connected car growth initiatives.
Quiggle leads the business development efforts to align our technology development, ecosystem enablement and business models to accelerate industry innovation and meet a variety of new satellite applications.
Quiggle has earned a BS of Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the University of Maryland.
While Phased Array antennas have long been popular in military and other high end markets, their high cost - from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars - have kept them out of mass markets. Yet today, the increased demand for mobile broadband and the coming of MEO and LEO satellite constellations have combined to unleash what is likely to be an unprecedented demand for electronically steered flat panel antennas.
In the mobility segment, ESAs will ultimately replace mechanically complex and failure prone mechanically stabilized antennas, and in LEO and MEO applications - where satellites move continuously across the sky and need to be tracked - they are essential.
The demand for such antennas has created a race among antenna developers to meet that challenge and one company, ALCAN Systems of Darmstadt, Germany, has just unveiled a unique concept, one promising enough to land them a contract with SES as well as stir up considerable interest in the satellite operator community.
What ALCAN is doing is to significantly reduce the cost of Phased Array antenna production by eliminating the phase shifting electronics from the antenna - one of the most costly and power consuming elements - and replacing them with a Liquid Crystal (LC) panel that performs the same phase shifting function and can be economically produced on an LC TV production line, thereby reducing the cost to 1/100 of the cost of a traditional Phased Array.
SMW: Esat, just how does your antenna compare in terms of efficiency to that of a traditional mechanically-steered parabolic antennas and to the Kymeta antenna, considering that the Kymeta 70 cm antenna, based on its G/T of 9.5 is only equivalent to a 28 cm dish? Can you give us some "hard" numbers?
Esat Sibay: In terms of comparative performance, though the comparison depends on many factors, we can say that our 70 cm antenna has the equivalent performance of a 52 cm dish antenna at bore-sight.
Although electronically steered flat-panel antennas are inherently less efficient than dish antennas, given their electronic steering capability and being low profile solutions, they have very valuable use-cases in mobility solutions as well as in fixed solutions that have low-profile, aesthetic requirements.
As you are aware , we have recently been selected by SES as one of their three technology partners (ALCAN is the only one SES have invested in) to develop a Ka band antenna for their future mPOWER constellation.
SMW: In a May 7 Space News article, you claim transmission capability of 250 Mbps? In this example, what size antenna are you using, what is the G/T of the antenna and what HTS satellite is providing the connectivity?
Esat Sibay: This transmission capability of 250 Mbps was quoted for a base Ka band antenna for a fixed bandwidth, a G/T of 15 dB/K and an antenna size of 90 cm x 90 cm. Multiples of this transmission capability are possible by either having a larger antenna or increasing the bandwidth.
SMW: What about scalability? What sizes will be available, and will it be possible to combine antennas in send or receive modes to improve performance? How will you deal with loss of antenna efficiency assuming usage at at 40 degrees latitude (assuming the antenna is mounted flat)?
Esat Sibay: At ALCAN, our focus is on developing antennas based on requirements provided by Satellite Operators and Service Providers so all antennas will be custom.
Our antenna is based on a modular design and thus is scalable. We are making several different size antenna for Ka and Ku band based on the requirements and specifications provided by our leading satellite operators customers.
Regarding operation at 40 degree + latitudes, all Phased Array antennas are challenged for GEO operation at the low scan angles experienced at high latitudes but are well suited to the high scan angles associated with MEO and LEO constellations.
However, having said that, they do have important use cases for GEO HTS services where their low-profile/low maintenance costs and aesthetic qualities provide critical advantages.
Of course, there are ways to mitigate the efficiency loss In high latitude locations. the antenna size can be increased, or antennas can be mounted at an angle to maintain scan angles closer to bore sight on, thereby minimizing the loss of gain associated with the low scan angles. Thus, we believe there will be many use-cases where the strengths of a FPA will out-way its shortcomings for GEO HTS services.
SMW: Can the ALCAN antenna send and receive on a single aperture or do you require separate send and receive apertures?
Esat Sibay: Currently our focus is on separate Rx and Tx apertures under a single radome.
The antenna we are developing for SES O3b mPOWER Ka-band antenna will have separate Rx and Tx apertures and will meet requirements provided by SES.
While we do not currently have an antenna that combines send and receive on a single aperture, we have future plans to design one.
SMW: Will you be able to track two satellites simultaneously – a key requirement for LEO and MEO constellations?
Esat Sibay: As our switching time between satellites is under 50 ms, we are able to meet the necessary satellite switching requirements with a single beam. Thus, our current focus is on a "break-before-make" approach.
SMW: What are the economics associated with production of your Ka-Band antenna? According to a May 7, 2017 article in Space News, you suggest a price target for less that 10,000 Euros for an enterprise version and 1,000 Euros for a consumer version. Given these pricing targets, considering the volume based economics of the LCD antenna production process, won’t you need very high volume production to achieve these price targets and mass markets?
Esat Sibay: From the start our focus has been on trying to get the cost of production as low as possible. Therefore, since the days of early development, we have been focusing on developing an antenna design that can be easily manufactured on an existing LCD manufacturing line. As the designs we have developed are well matched to the LCD manufacturing requirements, we are able to keep production switching costs at a minimum. This enables us to achieve a low marginal production cost for our antennas at even low production volumes. However, we expect volumes to be large.
Our plan is also to develop a smaller consumer antenna (Ku and Ka) that can allow satellite services to be extended to a wider consumer audience. With the availability of new high capacity, MEO and LEO constellations, we believe a new mass-/consumer-market will develop in the land mobile, maritime and home broadband market. Furthermore, we believe our technology will also serve the 5G market as the roll-out of the Millimeter Wave solutions gain strength.
SMW: What companies have placed orders for the antenna, what are their markets and applications?
Esat Sibay: We have already announced our work with SES and their mPOWER constellation. In addition to SES, we are already in contact with all of the next five large satellite operators and service providers to develop antennas that meet their requirements.
SMW: When will the Ka-Band be available for commercial deployment? I understand that you are also planning to develop a Ku-Band antenna. Do you have a target for completion and commercial availability of the Ku-Band antenna?
Esat Sibay: Our first priority is to deliver the mPOWER antenna for our partner SES in 2020. The initial focus is on the enterprise segment, where there is an existing demand. This will include a maritime and aero version of the antenna and will target the high-end of the market. We are targeting to have the Ka Band antenna for mPOWER available by the second half of 2020 and plan to follow up with the Ku Band antenna in 2021.
SMW: Esat, Thank you. We look forward to hearing more about the Alcan antenna and to covering the product launch.
"What ALCAN is doing is to significantly reduce the cost of Phased Array antenna production by eliminating the power hungry phase shifting electronic devices from the antenna and replacing them with a low power consuming phase shifting LC panel that can be economically produced."
ALCAN Systems' Antenna: Phase Shifting with LC - New Flat Panel Technology for Mobility
On the Road to Low Cost, Mass Produced Phased Array Antennas
Full Size LC Panel
Antenna (cut away view)
Esat Sibay is CFO and co-Founder of Alcan Systems:
Prior to joining Alcan, He was Manager Director of Corvus Advisors (10 years), a financial and strategic advisory firm.
He also served as a Senior Manager at Accenture, where he led engagements focusing on strategy, shareholder-value creation, mergers & acquisitions.
He worked in Capital Markets first at Citigroup as an equity analyst and later at CLSA as a corporate finance analyst.
He holds a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from, Bosphorous University (BU) , a B.Sc. in Economics, London School of Economics (LSE) and an M.Sc. in Finance, London Business School (LBS)
As the cruise industry's demand for bandwidth soars, serving this industry presents greater and greater challenges to satellite operators and hub and modem infrastructure providers.
There are several requirements that are key to satisfying the cruise customer. Above all is the need to provide a home-like user experience. This involves the need to provide massive throughput, affordability, and delivery of bandwidth capacity wherever a cruise ship is located at any point in time.
For example, a cruise ship might be at sea, near shore, or in port. This means that optimum satellite waveforms need to be deployed based on demand. Also, flexibility is a key concern in serving the connectivity needs of the this community. So, there are several aspects to the challenge.
Essentially, there are two solutions for achieving ultra high capacity using HTS satellites, channel bonding and advanced high capacity modems, and there are several waveforms that can be deployed to maximize efficiency, DVB-S2X on the forward link, and TDMA, Dynamic SCPC and SCPC on the return link.
While channel bonding has demonstrated downlink capacities in excess of 3 Gbps, it generally requires access to more than one satellite which limits its use due to the changing location of the vessel.
That's why it is currently impractical to provide very high bandwidth in this manner, since users would experience significant variability of service from as the vessel transit from one location to another. In addition, channel bonding requires the use of multiple antennas and modems which can be another limiting disadvantage.
With this limitation in mind, we spoke to our friends at Newtec to see what kind of solutions that can generate maximum throughput from a single transponder, and they were kind enough to put us in touch with Jo De Loor, their VP of Market Development, for a discussion of potential solutions.
SMW: Jo, given the limitations of channel bonding in an environment where a cruise would travel hundreds of miles per day across varying satellite environments, what can be done with today's technology to generate the kind of capacity that cruise vessels require from a single satellite?
JDL: The first challenge is how can we maximize throughput and leverage the lower cost per bit capabilities of the new high throughput satellites. These satellites are unique in that most legacy widebeam Ku-Band satellite transponders are limited to 36 or 72 MHz, while transponders on the new HTS satellites can be as large as 500 MHz allowing for a single, 500 MHz carrier.
You will note that satellite operators have directed these HTS spot beams over areas of very high cruise ship activity, principally the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. That’s how you can get higher throughputs at lower cost per bit to each of the cruise vessels. However, the challenge is to have the hub and modem technology that can handle a 500 MHz carrier and maximize bits per second output.
For example, each of our modems has a demodulator inside which can decode a 500 MHz carrier, so we no longer have to combine multiple smaller carriers into these large HTS transponders to achieve higher throughput, thereby maximizing efficiency.
SMW: So, as I understand it, the key to maximizing throughput is the ability to successfully decode a 500 MHz carrier. Is that correct?
JDL: Yes and no, given that available capacity we now have to explore how to deliver the maximum number of bit per Hertz, and that takes us into a discussion of possible waveforms to deploy on the forward and return links.
On the forward link, we use the latest satellite transmission standard, DVB-S2X, which is a highly efficient broadcast technology. Using it along with our Equalink carrier optimization technology, it is now possible for us to generate speeds up to 2 Gbps all from a single 500 MHz transponder on a single satellite, depending on the link budget.
On the return link, with the larger transponder sizes, its possible to achieve some very compelling advantages. As you know, in the cruise environment, it has become very important to offer a very high speed return link given the increasing demands of passengers who which to upload their content, images and videos to their social networks.
SMW: I have heard that in these high demand environments, traditional TDMA solutions aren't the best fit. Is that true?
JDL: That's correct. While TDMA is a very appropriate technology in scenarios where a lot of users use small amounts of bandwidth intermittently or in varying time cycles, in high demand markets, the bandwidth "overhead" associated with its use makes it not so efficient. So, there is a new solution available in the market that uses a dynamically variable SCPC link that adjusts the size of an SCPC link on demand while doing it with higher efficiency and much less overhead than TDMA. We call our version of this Mx-DMA.
Using MxDMA, its possible to provide uplink capacity up to 75 Mbps. However, as in some instances, a ship may want even higher bandwidth on the return link, our modems can actually switch to a dedicated SCPC link offering up to 250 Mbps is required. So, while a cruise ship at times of peak demand might require a 250 Mbps SCPC uplink, during the night or when the ship is in port, dynamically allocated SCPC would be an ideal solution. So, essentially, when these new waveforms are deployed with satellites and modem infrastructure capable of supporting 500 Mbaud/2 Gbps carriers, maximum efficiency and ultra high bandwidth can be achieved in both forward and return links. Of course, in a mobility environment, there are other considerations that must be addressed to maximize performance and lower costs, and these are generally relate to the integrators management of the network.
SMW: Yes. We seem to have neglected that area in our discussion. In terms of network management, what sort of advantages can these new technologies and platforms provide?
JDL: Alan, first of all, these solutions minimize the number of transponders required thereby reducing transponder lease costs. For example on the forward link, a single 500 MHz transponder using DVB-S2X could service both high and low demand markets at the same time. So cruise and cargo ships could share the same transponder. On the uplink, the satellite bandwidth can be shared to deliver MF-TDMA, MX-DMA and SCPC simultaneously,
In both forward and return links, these solutions represent significant strides ahead in enhancing efficiency and lowering the cost per bits per second. Of course, in mobility, there is another aspect to consider, advanced mobility management. That's about customized beam switching.
You may recall that traditional beam switching in a mobility environment relied upon the use of satellite footprint maps stored in the modems and switching parameters were fixed. We developed management tools to customize the beam switching using more advanced business logic. For example, adjusting the beam switching parameters could be used to minimize the excess capacity in a mobility network thereby limiting the number of transponders leased and maximizing available capacity.
SMW: So, given the rapid evolution of this technology, do you feel hub and modem providers can keep up with the cruise industry's very increasing demands?
JDL: We drive to meet those demand through the provision of innovative solutions. We have developed the technology to maximize the HTS satellite beam throughputs and efficiency and at the same time, we are adding modems like the MDM501, capable of delivering 500 Mbps to 1 Gbps of capacity to an individual vessels.
Looking forward, we will enable modems to have the full 2 Gbps carrier capacity delivered to a single vessel if needed. When even more capacity is required, Channel bonding using multiple transponders or satellites could still be of use. In that regard, the MEO and LEO constellations offer hope...
So far we have done well, but we will continue to push the limits of innovation as required, to meet the ever escalating demand for bandwidth at sea.
SMW: Jo, Thank you. I think our cruise industry readers and those integrators serving the industry will benefit from your comments.
New Solutions for Cruise with Jo De Loor, VP. Business Development at Newtec
High Capacity Modems, Channel Bonding and New Waveforms
" ...the challenge is to have the hub and modem technology that can handle a 500 MHz carrier and maximize bits per second output."
About Jo De Loor:
Jo holds the position of VP Market Development at Newtec and leads the team of market directors addressing Newtec’s vertical markets: Broadcast, Government & Defense, Broadband, Enterprise and Cellular Backhaul. Jo's personal focus is on HTS and Enterprise markets.
In his previous role as Product Manager, he was responsible for the product definition and market launch of Newtec Dialog®, Newtec’s scalable, flexible and bandwidth efficient multiservice platform. It gives operators the power to offer a variety of services on a single platform while assuring the most optimal modulation and bandwidth allocation.
Jo has over 20 years of experience in the industry. He began his career at Newtec in 1996 with different assignments within the Newtec organization. In 2005 he became systems architect for Newtec’s DVB-RCS system and further evolved to product manager and later Product Line Director of the Sat3Play Broadband Platform. Jo holds a bachelor degree in electronics from HTISA-Gent, Belgium.
There are many mobility related satellite industry events and unless you have an unlimited budget, here are the "must attends" and others that may be of interest. Note that the "hot" sectors are Cruise, Aero and Yachts.
****** World Satellite Business Week: September 10-14th 2018 - Paris France: Notably the best conference for networking among top industry executives. A "must attend" with an excellent program. The 2017 conference was excellent. We attended the "Smart Plane" session and found it especially interesting.
*** Comsys Global VSAT Conference: London: September 11-14: While an interesting conference, unfortunately it conflicts with the Euro Consult Conference. If you are interested in networking among the satellite industry elite, we recommend you do World Satellite Business Week instead.
**** SMM Hamburg: September 4-7 2018: Highly recommended for those who follow the use of satellite connectivity on ships and in particular, on conta vessels. While the very large event covers all shipping products, you'll find most providers of vessel connectivity exhibiting at the show.
**IBC Amsterdam, Netherlands: September 13th - 18th. A good conference for broadcast and related technologies.
****APEX EXPO (Aircraft Passenger Experience Expo): September 24-27, 2018 - Boston Mass. Highly recommended for those who follow the aircraft connectivity and in-flight entertainment markets.
****Oilcomm and Fleetcom: October 3-4 - Houston Texas
This is the best show for those interested in connectivity in the oil patch. Most of the major integrators exhibit. It's generally well attended, and is a good show for networking in a casual atmosphere.
****DC5G: November 12-13 - Washington, D.C.
Given the potential opportunities for satellite services in the coming 5G infrastructure, we recommend attending this conference
*Other Conferences/Shows of Interest:
***Digital Ship CIO Forum/Cyber Resilience Forum: Held in numerous locations around the world, these events are notable for their focus mainly on IT related issues including cyber security, IoT and M2M. Sponsored globally by Marlink, they are held nearly everywhere.
Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events
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