For Africa, Offering Innovation in the Sky and on the Ground

By Nick Dowsett

Director, IntelsatOne Managed Solutions

Several of my colleagues and I have just returned from the recent AfricaCom conference in South Africa, where we witnessed a lot of talk and excitement about how Intelsat’s new generation of high-performance satellites, Intelsat EpicNG, is going to help open up markets that previously couldn’t be served in an economically viable means.

Many mobile network operators and Internet service providers are looking forward to taking advantage of the performance of Intelsat’s EpicNG platform by deploying a new generation of ground equipment designed for the satellite platform. The combination of Intelsat’s innovation in space and the equipment providers’ innovation in ground equipment will lead to a lower cost-per-bit of throughput, enabling new markets.  Taking the rural mobile telephony market as an example, the results of the combined innovation will allow mobile telephony operators to deploy cell towers in rural regions that were not feasible before.

In describing one aspect of the enhanced performance of Intelsat EpicNG platform, I used the analogy of a flashlight or torch. If a wide beam of a traditional satellite is the flashlight on the wide, dispersed setting, Intelsat EpicNG is the flashlight with a focused, brighter beam of light. Intelsat’s IS-33e satellite that will come on-line in early 2017 will have powerful spot beams covering Africa that will enable the delivery of more throughput to smaller antennas than was typically the case previously. Importantly, IS-33e utilizes the more robust Ku frequency band that is a pre-requisite for enterprise-grade quality of service.

Many mobile network operators in Africa are looking to expand their network coverage, either because of regulatory demands to provide universal service or because their revenues are flat-lining or even declining. They have to expand into new markets, with typically only the rural communities left open to them.

One of the principal challenges in providing rural coverage is the lack of commercial electrical power for the remote radio towers. The benefit of Intelsat EpicNG when combined with suitable ground equipment is that solar power becomes a practical solution. The ground equipment for Intelsat EpicNG solution requires significantly less power than that for a traditional wide beam satellite solution.

The enhanced sensitivity of the Intelsat EpicNG spot beams enables the use of lower power transmit amplifiers. Additionally, the more focused, higher-power signal transmitted by the satellite allows operators to use smaller antennas. This both lowers installation costs and reduces operational costs by requiring less maintenance over time.  For example, the smaller antennas can be mounted higher from the ground, providing for greater security without creating significant wind resistance.

During AfricaCom, I presented at a customer event alongside one of our key ground equipment partners, Newtec, to illustrate the advantages of combining the Intelsat EpicNG technology with the latest generation of ground equipment. While Intelsat EpicNG is backwards compatible and can be used with existing ground equipment, Intelsat is keen to highlight the significant benefits to a customer when the satellite platform is used with ground equipment specifically designed to take advantage of the platform’s performance.

Intelsat testing has shown that the use of Intelsat EpicNG with a customer’s existing ground equipment will yield a 165% improvement in efficiency when compared to a traditional widebeam solution. When combined with the latest ground equipment, Intelsat EpicNG can increase that improvement in efficiency by 330%.

Intelsat EpicNG is offering innovation in the sky, but our hardware partners are a key part of the ecosystem, bringing a new generation of innovation on the ground to enable customers to take full advantage of the of the performance of these new satellites.

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