In my corner of Florida, we have one cable operator -- but some locals are looking to the skies for broadband connectivity.
During the most recent recession, the Space Coast did not live up to its name. Kennedy Space Center and nearby Merritt Island seemed doomed to become trivia-game answers, much like nearby Cocoa Beach's ties to "I Dream of Jeannie." Several friends -- actual rocket scientists -- sold their homes at a loss, grateful to have new jobs in Virginia, D.C. or California.
Now some have returned and several are working to deploy small, cost-effective satellites to quench the global hunger for connectivity, in even the most inhospitable terrains and climates. Advances in satellite technology are generating interest from webscale providers like Facebook to nations such as Uganda and consulting firms like Accenture, as well as a deluge of new players and bigger opportunities for industry stalwarts.
NASA and a handful of defense contractors now share KSCs launch pads with SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin. The Space Center, as one friend told me recently, is slammed. Whereas it once revolved around propelling people into space, today most of the buzz surrounds unmanned missions that empower people to communicate with their next-door neighbor or a corporation halfway around the world.
Enterprises and service providers are paying attention to the cost-effectiveness satellites, especially Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites will or can offer, John-Paul (JP) Hemingway, the recently appointed CEO of SES Networks, a global satellite-enabled managed data service provider, told Broadband World News.
Getting Grounded About Satellite Dreams
Service providers should consider satellite another tool in their repository for bringing high-speed, high-quality broadband to enterprise and residential customers, says JP Hemingway, CEO, SES Networks.
Advances in technology, coupled with affordability, make satellites an additional resource that service providers can leverage for their broadband infrastructure, he said. Just as fiber may be the most appropriate approach for one region, satellite could be the best alternative for another, Hemingway said.
"People need same end-to-end services no matter whether it's delivered via fiber, microwave or satellite. We integrate satellite into the end-to-end experience," he said.
SES Networks, which launched six satellites in the first quarter of 2018, offers multiple-gigabit capacity with "fiber-like latency," said Hemingway. Next-generation capabilities will advance each SES Networks' satellite from 10 beams to 4,000 beams, he said. As a result, the constellation of satellites will go from its current capacity of 160 beams to more than 30,000 beams, giving SES Networks the ability to cover the earth with fiber-like connectivity, added Hemingway..
This new constellation, slated for availability in 2020-21, will be controlled via software-defined networking techniques, application-aware networking and automation, he said. Leveraging SDN and other capabilities give SES Networks more control and flexibility over its satellites and ensuring satellite technologies are covered in standards are one reason the vendor participates and gets certified in organizations such as Metro Ethernet Forum 2.0, NSO Forum and ONAP, Hemingway said.
"The fact that other people want to launch proves to me satellite has to and will become mainstream," said Hemingway. "It can't be thought of as the point of last resort. We really should be thinking of it as a medium to connect broadband. The satellite industry has been changing, and it needed to change. It needed disrupting. We're ultimately here to change the role of satellite, to be another viable tool to deliver broadband to customers."
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter @BroadbandWN or @alisoncdiana.