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The Advantages of GEO Experience in Enabling LEO Service Implementations

satellite points around the earth

For the past several years, the satellite industry has been buzzing about all the new Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations that have been announced by companies new to the business of space communications. Several of these, including OneWeb, in which Hughes is both a technology provider and a distribution partner, have gotten off the drawing board, put satellites in orbit and begun providing services.

The companies in so called “Old Space” -- the long-time operators of satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) -- have not been just watching from the sidelines. Several of these operators – Hughes included -- are partnering with the new LEO entrants or even launching their own LEO constellations. I took part in a webinar recently with colleagues from Telesat and SES in which we discussed how the GEO companies may in fact have the long-term advantage in implementing LEO services because we have the capabilities to build hybrid networks combining the best attributes of satellites on multiple orbital planes.

I came away with these points from our discussion:

  • For government, mobility, and enterprise connectivity, LEO service will need to be delivered with enterprise-grade features like service level agreements and committed information rates. What’s more, these implementations will need to be augmented with GEO connectivity – whether for multi-transport services or for network resiliency. By having access to satellites in multiple orbits, a satellite operator can provide a hybrid network best suited to the needs of these higher end customers.
  • Interoperability between constellations is highly complex, yet this complexity needs to be invisible at the customer end of the network. The satellite provider must also be able to weave in terrestrial capacity if that best suits the customer’s need. At the same time, the service provider must provide the most economical means of data transport. One-way video, because it is not latency sensitive, might best go over a GEO satellite while voice would be better suited to a lower latency LEO constellation.
  • The equipment used in a hybrid LEO-GEO network is not one-type-fits-all. The terminals need to be designed specifically for the application, whether it’s aeronautical, maritime, or fixed. Because of its complexity, a hybrid network needs to be managed continuously using the best network security, artificial intelligence, and machine learning tools available.

From the Hughes perspective, we tie all of these different elements together – the multiple transports; the technologies that enable seamless interoperability; and the essential network management and automation – and fully integrate them into the ActiveComms Ecosystem. Also known as “ACE,” it’s our way of realizing the multi-transport vision that will make communications ubiquitous and seamless for people, enterprises and things, everywhere.