Hughes Network Systems, OneWeb Ink Deal
- September 13, 2021
Hughes Network Systems and OneWeb have inked a capacity deal for its customers in two agreements – one with the United States, the other with India, according to a statement from Hughes. The U.S. distribution agreement focuses on enterprise services, and the companies have reached a memorandum of understanding to distribute services in India to large enterprises, government, telcos and internet service providers in the rural and remote parts of the country, Hughes said.
Services will be offered in the United States by Hughes Network Systems and in India by Hughes Communications India Private. Hughes President Pradman Kaul said at a press event that the company’s joint venture with Bharti Airtel in India is expected to close later this year, according to a report published by Satellite Show Daily.
This action will combine Hughes Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites and network technologies with OneWeb’s satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO). Satellite Show Daily said that the companies shared a demonstration on Sept. 9 of this multi-orbit connectivity. It showed Hughes ActiveTechnologies software transmitting different types of traffic, such as streaming and gaming, over the most efficient path, whether it be OneWeb or Jupiter HTS.
“The future of connectivity depends on a worldwide network of multiple transports, including terrestrial, geostationary and low-Earth orbit satellite services,” Kaul said in a prepared statement. “OneWeb’s system enhances the Hughes portfolio of networking capabilities, introducing a low-latency option with global reach that complements GEO satellite capacity density and capability to meet our customers’ needs.”
AT&T, OneWeb Plan Satellite Access for Remote Area Businesses
- September 8, 2021
AT&T has signed a strategic agreement with OneWeb, the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company, to harness the capabilities of satellite technology to improve access for AT&T business customers into remote and challenging geographic locations. AT&T says the new connectivity will complement its existing access technologies.
AT&T will use this technology to enhance connectivity when connecting to its enterprise, small and medium-sized business and government customers as well as hard-to-reach cell towers. The company says its business fiber network enables high-speed connections to over 2.5 million U.S. business customer locations. Nationwide, more than 9 million business customer locations are within 1,000 feet of AT&T fiber. However, there are still remote areas that existing networks can’t reach with the high-speed, low-latency broadband essential to business operations.
According to AT&T, the AT&T service will be supported by OneWeb’s network of satellites. OneWeb has launched 288 satellites and expects to attain global coverage with a total fleet of 648 satellites by the end of 2022. AT&T business and government customers in Alaska and northern U.S. states will be covered later this year.
“Working with OneWeb, we’ll be able to enhance high-speed connectivity in places that we don’t serve today and meet our customers wherever they are,” said Scott Mair, president, network engineering and operations, AT&T. “We’re expanding our network with one more option to help ensure that our business customers have the high-speed, low-latency connectivity they need to thrive as the nation recovers from COVID-19.”
“OneWeb’s enterprise-grade network has a unique capability to serve hard-to-reach businesses and communities. Our work with AT&T will focus on how satellite technology can support improved capacity and coverage in remote, rural and challenging geographic locations,” said Neil Masterson, OneWeb chief executive officer. “Today’s agreement with AT&T demonstrates OneWeb’s execution momentum and the confidence customers such as AT&T have in its services and offering.”
OneWeb is a global communications network powered from space, headquartered in London, enabling connectivity for governments, businesses, and communities. It is implementing a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites with a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals to provide an affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications service, connected to the IoT future and a pathway to 5G for everyone, everywhere. For more information, visit http://www.oneweb.world
LEO 2.0 – The Phoenix Rises
By Ernest Worthman
- August 25, 2021
I have long been of the opinion that satellite services will be a requirement for ubiquitous 5G coverage. This, long before Elon and company and the others jumped into the game and while Iridium was nothing more than homeless space junk. But that was then, and this is now, and without satellites, global wireless coverage will not happen.
This time, it is different. The last 30 or so years have upped the non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite technology significantly – enough to consider it a serious contender in the next generation of wireless. This new world of satellite technology will make it technically able to compete with terrestrial systems, complement them, as well as making it a solution to provide RF coverage for traditionally hard and impossible to cover terrain.
At present, there is a pretty full scorecard of systems or low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites looking for a piece of the satellite pie. In fact, by the time Starlink is fully operational, there will be tens of thousands of these birds swirling around in near-earth orbits (mind you, most of them will be Musk’s).
At the Satellite 2021 conference, Mark Dankberg, the executive chairman of ViaSat, said that he believes tens of thousands may be just the beginning. He spoke of a future where there could be hundreds of thousands of LEO satellites in orbit. Not tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands. That, of course, is at least a decade away, and most likely longer. But a more realistic assessment, if current satellite internet proposals become reality, is that about 50,000 active satellites that would be in orbit by 2030.
That, of course, assumes things progress without dramatic changes in geopolitical conditions, the latest iteration of the virus (or maybe a new iteration?) or a cataclysmic event. There is always the harbinger of nation states’ instability around the globe (the Middle East, China and Taiwan). Who know what other unforeseen global events might pop up?
The main reason for this resurgence in LEO constellations is 5G. I get the uneasy feeling that much of this movement is betting on the come. It would be one thing if we already had a reasonably ubiquitous 5G (meaning SA) infrastructure. That is easily between five and 10 years away. That does not mean we will not have the beginnings of a 5G SA infrastructure arriving in the next couple of years. But a working infrastructure where 5G is not just pockets everywhere but a network where 5G coverage is available to most people in most places – reliably. Do not forget 5G in sub-6 GHz is different that 5G in mmWave.
Another unknown is the internet. 5G is said to be the great enabler for the internet’s evolution to the next level. Exactly how 5G and the internet will evolve as a unit is still a bit fuzzy. Therefore, there is not a clear model of the future that the LEO segment can look to with a high degree of confidence. Many are willing to bet on the industry, hoping there are no major hiccups to deflect progress.
This resurgence in LEOs is partially due to the fact that governments are stepping in to help. Without that, the road will be much bumpier (except for Musk, of course). For example, the Canadian government is going to invest $1.2 billion in Telesat Lightspeed to support its LEO satellite network, which is being sold as an alternative LTE, 5G and broadband connectivity option. Under the agreement, the Canadian government will provide a loan of $626 million to the company, as well as make a $515 million equity investment.
In a similar move, the United Kingdom has put together a $1 billion rescue package for satellite operator OneWeb through a consortium of players to keep it moving forward. Even Intelsat seems to be on the road to recovery after its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last year, with some confidence that its investors will approve its reemergence.
The current frenzy in this segment is hoping to overcome the failures of the past. That is quite possible. There is a high degree of confidence that the latest advances in satellite technology and the emergence of new business opportunities (the IoX, various 5G vectors, the logarithmic deployments of machine communications, edge networks, the work from home segment) will materialize.
There are also new investors with deeper pockets who see the ability to connect where terrestrial networks fall short or do not exist (rural, higher demand for low-latency bandwidth [M2M, the enterprise, and more) as fertile opportunities.
However, much of this is based on speculation. Unless you are Elon Musk, the success of other LEO constellations is far from being guaranteed. The industry is banking on a couple of angles. One is positioning them as the key player to bridge the digital divide. Another is the IoX. There are tangents as well, military, B2B and B2C use cases and industries such as oil and gas, and transportation.
Although the potential opportunities seem realistic, one looming issue is the cost to the end user. Satellite communications are more expensive than terrestrial, and unless economies of scale can be reached, cost will remain a significant hurdle.
Another challenge is the sheer number of players. Musk’s deep pockets have the advantage here, but it is likely that governments or other wealthy investor-types will aid the other players, at least for the near term.
In a different time and place, gauging the success of the emerging LEO market would be much easier. Many reports and opinions point to a rosy future for the segment. Not all prognostications are rosy. There remains a specter of doubt in all of this in vectors I mentioned previously. Some analysts point to the sheer number of constellations and satellites as being a speed bump due to the dilution of economies of scale across this many players.
The most likely scenario, if things do not change radically, is that, over the next few years, the industry will go through a bit of an upheaval, consolidate, and the result will be a few major players.
LEO satellites are here to stay. There is an air of optimism within the industry. There exists a great deal of opportunity if all things remain on course.