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Plugging communications gaps with satellites

The upcoming O3b mPOWER constellation builds on the success of SES’s existing O3b constellation, which has been providing high-speed, low-latency broadband internet to customers in over 50 countries since 2014.

A SES_O3b mPOWER satellite over Asia Pacific

SES operates the world’s only multi-orbit constellation of satellites and sees itself as a leader in global content connectivity solution, as well as a trusted partner to telecommunications companies, mobile network operators, governments, connectivity and cloud service providers, broadcasters, video platform operators and content owners, all around the world.

SES’s Sales Director, Asia for Fixed Data, Harsh Verma, also shared, that SES is not just a capacity provider, but an end-to-end services partner with ground infrastructure. For example in Malaysia, there is a satellite gateway (teleport or hub) in Bukit Jalil and a secondary gateway coming up in Rawang.

The upcoming O3b mPOWER constellation builds on the success of SES’s existing O3b constellation, which has been providing high-speed, low-latency broadband internet to customers in over 50 countries since 2014.

A satellite gateway is generally described as a ground station that transmits data to/from satellite to the local area network, housing equipment that convert radio frequency to an Internet Protocol (IP) signal for terrestrial connectivity.

The O3b satellite constellation enabled rollout of 3G and 4G mobile networks in certain remote islands in Asia Pacific. It is also powering connectivity services on the Dream Cruises fleet, a member of Genting Cruise Lines. Together with partners, SES also provides broadband connectivity services to ships, mining sites and offshore oil rigs.

What is O3b mPOWER?

This was launched in 2013 to deliver low-latency, fibre-like managed services. Currently, it is a fleet of 20 MEO (medium earth orbit about 8,000km above Earth) satellites, and currently supports mobile networks with over 15 million users, four out of the top 6 big gas companies, and four out the top five cruise lines.

O3b mPOWER was announced in 2017 and is targeted to launch in 2021. It comprises an initial constellation of 11 high-throughput, low-latency MEO satellites, with extensive ground infrastructure and intelligent software which potentially allows customers to control their usage capacity.

The O3b satellite constellation enabled rollout of 3G and 4G mobile networks in certain remote islands in Asia Pacific. It is also powering connectivity services on the Dream Cruises fleet, a member of Genting Cruise Lines. Together with partners, SES also provides broadband connectivity services to ships, mining sites and offshore oil rigs.

Harsh shared that the beams from these satellites are narrower than wide beams from traditional satellites. They can also be electrically steered, so for example, a beam can follow a vessel in the ocean.

O3b mPOWER satellites are set to be launched into space by Elon Musk’s’ Space X rockets, come Q3 of 2021.

The constellation is expected to be operational and providing global coverage by Q3 of next year. There is consideration to expand the constellation beyond the initial 11 satellites, as well.

“Satellites, with their unparalleled reach and ability to be deployed rapidly, are well-placed to complement existing terrestrial networks, fibre broadband and cable links to not only deliver last-mile connectivity to remote, underserved areas, but also boost network strength and resilience. This is especially important given the criticality of internet connectivity in today’s increasingly competitive digital economy,” said Harsh.

The launch of the new satellite constellation comes amid public sector initiatives aimed at boosting Malaysia’s digital infrastructure and its digital economy, although it is designed to address needs of other vertical markets like military, NGOs, oil & gas, mining, and commercial shipping.