The Latin American Satellite Congress held in Rio de Janeiro at the end of September provided a great opportunity to engage with some of the largest satellite communication companies in the world.
Looking back, there was one common theme that stood out: collaboration.
As we at TeleGeography have noted many times, the vast majority of global connectivity passes through submarine cables. But satellite networks are growing ever more important, both as complements to terrestrial systems and as last resorts for where it is hard (or expensive) to lay fiber.
For enterprises, that means a hybrid Wide Area Network (WAN) combining satellite and terrestrial connectivity is increasingly relevant.
Let’s Be Friends, but in Outer Space
Two key types of collaboration drew the most attention in Rio.
We discuss the first type—mergers and acquisitions between satellite operators focused on different orbits and the potential to integrate their service portfolios—in this blog. The second type of collaboration, partnerships between satellite operators and telcos, is one that we are increasingly monitoring.
Sectors like agriculture, finance, medicine, energy, aviation, maritime travel, and several others depend on connectivity. In Rio, the needs of these sectors were discussed in familiar telecom terms: high throughput, low latency, network security, and the ability to connect remote locations.
These are priorities many enterprise network managers discuss with us on a regular basis. And while traditional telco wireline and wireless networks often address these needs, there are still gaps in coverage.
That’s where satellites come in.
Investment in satellite connectivity—especially Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations—has grown in recent years.
High speed, low latency satellite connectivity solutions, primarily for the internet, have filled a coverage gap. This has led to a rise in partnerships between satellite operators and their terrestrial telco counterparts that are coordinating connectivity for hybrid WAN solutions.
From an infrastructure standpoint, satellites and fiber optic cables can serve as natural complements to one another. That’s in large part because they tend to serve different markets.
Fiber is a cost-effective way of connecting densely populated areas, while the versatility of satellites is often best suited for rural areas or users on the move.
Fiber is a cost-effective way of connecting densely populated areas, while the versatility of satellites is often best suited for rural areas or users on the move. Think planes, trains, and automobiles, as well as shipping vessels and other nautical vehicles.
When Our Paths Cross
In Rio, it became clear that satellite operators working in various orbits understand the benefits of partnering with traditional telco operators.
Here’s where some of those companies currently stand and what telco partnerships they have established.
The biggest news regarding Eutelsat during the Latin American Satellite Congress was that their acquisition of OneWeb was final. That means the company now offers satellite connectivity in GEO and LEO orbits.
Eutelsat has an impressive array of current telco partners. Some to note are Orange, TIM, Swisscom, and etisalat.
Now operating as Eutelsat OneWeb, this LEO operator continues to move ahead following bankruptcy in 2020.
Among its partners are some familiar names; Telstra, Orange, AT&T, and BT are a few more prominent examples.
After the dissipation of a near-merger with Intelsat, SES turned much of its attention to the delayed launch of its O3b mPower constellation.
Key SES telco partners include: Telefónica, NTT, Orange, Claro, and Reliance Jio.
This Canadian satellite operator is also looking ahead to deploy a future new constellation called Lightspeed, establishing their LEO presence. This would offer complimentary solutions to their GEO portfolio.
Some key Telesat telco partners currently include: TIM Brasil, Telefónica Global Solutions, and Tata (via their satcom services company Nelco).
Most of the attention in Rio focused on Kuiper’s October 2023 launch of units into space.
Although it has yet to begin operations, Kuiper is expected to become an LEO connectivity disruptor with a large fleet comparable to that of Starlink.
To date, Amazon has announced two telco partners expected to work with Kuiper: Verizon and Vodafone.
A World of Possibilities
Although this conference focused on Latin America, its lessons apply globally.
LEO satellites have already proven to be a major force in the connectivity business. As a result, GEO and MEO operators are deciding whether to compete with quickly growing LEO operators, join forces, or launch new LEO satellites of their own.
And with more and more fixed line carriers integrating satellite connectivity solutions into their global network, it is hard to deny that satellite is having its day.
With more and more fixed line carriers integrating satellite connectivity solutions into their global network, it is hard to deny that satellite is having its day.
For enterprise networks managers, this could mean new connectivity options going forward, which is especially important as enterprise networks grow ever more dynamic.