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Does Satellite Compete with or Complement Terrestrial Wireless Networks?

Satellite connectivity

The Connectivity Expo (Connect X) unites technology industry stakeholders in North America who deliver infrastructure solutions for ubiquitous connectivity. Over the last several years, the show’s focus has been on 5G infrastructure: innovative technology, supporting professional services, and the partner ecosystem necessary for connectivity among people, devices, machines and tools.

Yet even within the industries making 5G happen, there are big questions about how to achieve ubiquitous connectivity––and who will be involved. At this year’s Connect X event, I joined a panel discussion titled, “Do Satellite Services Compete with or Complement Terrestrial Wireless Networks at the Edge?” Here are some of the top questions asked during our panel session:

  • What is the business model for satellite companies like Hughes? Hughes is unique in that we are both a technology and a services company with a diversified business model. Many satellite companies only sell capacity to operators, which then provide services to customers. Since Hughes manufactures ground equipment and has our own satellites, we offer both a vertically integrated solution in the markets where we have capacity, and work with partners in other markets to augment their solutions. For instance, we can provide complete turnkey solutions that include the hardware and satellite capacity, or just the ground equipment or the satellite capacity. In addition, we have our own consumer internet service, HughesNet®, lending us deep service delivery expertise on top of our proven engineering capabilities.

  • How will Direct to Device (D2D) satellite connectivity work? Will it work inside buildings? Like the excitement that surrounded 5G several years ago, everyone is eager to learn more about the potential of D2D. The technologies for D2D, however, are still in the early stages of development. As for in-building satellite coverage, that actually will not be possible, as satellite signals cannot transmit through buildings. Luckily, that is not an issue, as most buildings will likely have their own terrestrial coverage already, for example with on-site Wi-Fi or 4G or 5G service. As a value-add service, D2D will be a life changer for those in areas with spotty terrestrial service, extending mobile network connections everywhere within the footprint of the satellite constellation.

  • How much capacity is available from satellites? In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of satellites being deployed into space, driven by the desire and growing need to connect everything, everywhere. And there are more launches on the horizon; the upcoming launch of our JUPITER™ 3 satellite among them. OneWeb also recently completed its constellation of 684 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, enabling Hughes––as a OneWeb distributor and partner of choice––to deliver Managed LEO Satellite Service. These are just two examples of how industry leaders are increasing satellite capacity to help meet user demand––a demand so insatiable, satellites alone will not be able to meet it.

  • Is the satellite sector trying to put the infrastructure industry out of business? There is simply not enough satellite capacity alone to satisfy global demand; nor is there enough terrestrial infrastructure to meet the ever-increasing need. That’s why we need to bring all forms of connectivity – terrestrial and non-terrestrial – to market and combine them into hybrid solutions, like HughesNet Fusion®, to  best leverage the optimal mix of cost, availability, speed and latency.

Achieving ubiquitous coverage will require all industry players and an expanded community of partners ––with terrestrial, wireless and satellite providers collaborating to innovate technologies, build global networks and deliver services to connect anyone and everything, in real-time. It will be interesting to see the progress the industry can make in realizing all the potential of satellite, terrestrial and multi-transport solutions when we gather next year at Connect X.