Mobile World Congress: Ushering in the 5G Era with Satellites
By Karen Emery, Director, Broadband Product Management, Intelsat
There was an air of anticipation at Mobile World Congress this year as industry leaders outlined a transformative future powered by pervasive, high-speed connectivity. We heard about the early trials of 5G networks – which GSMA predicts will support 1.1 billion connections by 2025 – and the coming fourth industrial revolution that will impact nearly every aspect of how we work, live and collaborate with each other and intelligent devices.
When Nokia’s CEO Rajeev Suri took the stage, he described what this will mean in real terms for intelligent automation in factories, robotics, and self-driving cars. In one example, Suri helped the audience visualize a scenario where your car senses its muffler is failing – setting off a chain of automated events. A message is sent to your virtual auto center, where the analytics determine you need a new part. Instead of taking your car to a mechanic, the schematics for the muffler are sent to your home 3D printer, where it is created and installed by your home robot – all while you’re doing something more enjoyable!
That may sound like science fiction to some, but these are the experiences that ultra-reliable, ubiquitous networks have the potential to deliver. It’s a future that everyone in the communications space is driving toward – but it’s going to require close collaboration among industry players to seamlessly integrate terrestrial networks and satellite networks to expand coverage everywhere – from dense urban areas to remote geographies. We also need to scale network performance to meet growing data requirements while delivering improved economics and simplified access to deliver transformative experiences to the world.
Satellite moves into the mainstream
One message was clear at Mobile World Congress: satellite connectivity is quickly moving into the mainstream. Of course, satellites have always been synonymous with global communications and connecting the unconnected. But now they’re integral to the 5G future, providing continuous, affordable, turbo-charged broadband to support billions of connections.
In SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son’s keynote, he highlighted the critical importance of satellite networks in unlocking the potential of super intelligent, connected devices – including connected cars – through hundreds of OneWeb LEO satellites acting as a “cell tower” – delivering high-speed, low latency, fiber-like signals “straight from space.”
We certainly believe in Son’s vision, and the potential of next-generation, affordable satellite services with OneWeb. A seamlessly integrated ecosystem of GEO/LEO satellites and terrestrial technologies will be at the core of many of the new applications and services our customers and partners will develop for media, mobility, broadband, and government customers.
Just last month, our partner Kymeta introduced an exciting flat panel antenna and services that will provide connectivity for mobility customers to our wide-beam and Intelsat EpicNG satellites through familiar, flexible data packages that consumers are used to buying. This is a great example of how our joint collaboration is making satellite connectivity more economical and accessible for a wide range of fixed and mobile applications, including rail, energy, IoT, first responders, buses, connected cars, and more.
If you were at Mobile World Congress and walked the expo floor as I did, you probably heard at least a dozen different terms used to describe where connectivity is heading… ubiquitous, pervasive, boundless, extreme, high-speed, ultra-fast… the list goes on. The good news is that as an industry we’re moving ever-closer to that reality.
We’re thrilled to be at the forefront of this progress, and we’re investing in the future with the connectivity infrastructure and services that will fuel the 5G era and beyond. The demands of tomorrow – and the innovations and growth it inspires – will be inextricably linked to the satellite-based network services that we will deliver, together with our customers and partners.
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