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Research Explores Satellite’s Role in Enabling Universal Broadband Connectivity

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A new whitepaper by ABI Research titled, Satellite Communications: Enabling Universal Broadband Connectivity, reveals that, despite the availability of mobile and fixed broadband access, there is still a significant proportion of the global population that is not adequately covered by terrestrial broadband and will not be in the near future. This revelation comes despite the fact that data consumption of rural broadband has increased to match that of urban broadband users. Rural users rely increasingly on high-bandwidth video streaming, messaging and the internet for work, education and social activities. Of course, the pandemic only accelerated these trends, with people everywhere relying on the internet more than ever. ITU’s Measuring digital development: Facts and figures 2020 report notes that international bandwidth usage grew by a remarkable 38% that year.

Despite the popularity of mobile cellular, fixed wireless access and fiber optic cable, such solutions have proven to be inadequate in providing sufficient broadband coverage for rural populations, according to the researchers. The authors cite that while mobile cellular coverage now reaches a significant proportion of the world’s population, there are still 750 million people with no mobile cellular coverage whatsoever.

Satellite communications—both Geostationary (GEO) and Low Earth Orbit (LEO)—are essential for addressing the reach, coverage and reliability limitations of terrestrial broadband and enabling universal broadband connectivity. Satellite is nothing short of necessary to achieve regulatory requirements that call for inclusive broadband services in urban, suburban and rural communities, driving a market expected to grow significantly in the next several years as an affordable way to meet increasing data demands—either as a primary transport or part of a hybrid transport solution.

Satellite’s strength, however, isn’t solely in its ability to provide coverage where it doesn’t currently exist. It enables operators to backhaul traffic from mobile cellular base stations, not just in rural areas but everywhere. Satellite improves the business case of extending a mobile network by providing a more cost-efficient alternative to terrestrial backhaul. With an anticipated rise in subscription rates—to 8.8 billion by 2026, according to the researchers—satellite will be essential to helping mobile operators provide improved coverage and service.

Another strength of satellite is that it’s now possible to integrate satellite with other transport technologies—like mobile cellular and fixed infrastructure—for improved interoperability, resilience and flexibility. Hughes has demonstrated the ability to switch signals between non-Geostationary orbit (NGSO) and GEO satellite constellations for seamless on-the-move connectivity and manages thousands of multi-transport end-points worldwide on behalf of enterprise customers. Ultimately, the availability of multi-transport and multi-orbit solutions that leverage complementary services—such as GEO and LEO or GEO and LTE—will be integral to connecting everyone and everything, even as demand continues to grow.

Download the full ABI Research whitepaper here.