Satellite Provides the Key to the Connected Car

By Jay Yass, Vice President, Market Development

Jay Yass Blog ImageDelivering bandwidth to the “connected car” offers a major market opportunity for communications companies while at the same time giving auto manufacturers a more efficient way to update software in the under-the-hood computers increasingly vital to vehicle operations. We are just beginning to see this technology develop with cars on the road today using LTE cellular networks. The idea of the connected car, however, extends far beyond driver conveniences such as radio programming and navigation systems. And satellite is the ideal technology to take the connected car to the next level. That’s because, unlike local and regional LTE networks, satellite systems are global. Intelsat satellites reach 99% of the world’s populated regions. A homogenous global satellite network is ideally suited to the world’s car manufacturers, most of which sell cars on every continent. With satellite, companies like Toyota, Honda and Ford can reach all of their vehicles on a single network, whether the cars are in Canada or South Africa. Further, satellites can reach rural areas that don’t have cellular service. And by combining Intelsat’s GEO satellites with OneWeb’s planned LEO constellation, our signals will be able to reach vehicles in the city scape, which requires a high elevation angle inherent with LEO fleets with a large number of satellites. This is in stark contrast to auto companies having to contract with hundreds of terrestrial cell carriers in order to achieve global coverage. With advantages like these, satellite will play a leading role in unlocking the potential of the connected car. Here are a few examples: 1. Distribution of Huge Amounts of Data to a Vehicle: The ability to send software and firmware updates to computers on board automobiles will be a boon for car manufacturers. Multicasting like this can both eliminate the need for an owner to bring a car into a dealership for a routine maintenance check and speed the response to manufacturer recalls. Imagine how much more efficiently the recent hack on an auto manufacturer could have been resolved if the impacted company had been able to distribute the bug fix to the over 1 million people whose vehicles were impacted with just the click of a mouse. 2. Broad Coverage and Global Deployment: With global coverage and high speed everywhere (vs. 2G and 3G in most places and 4G in few areas), satellite has a distinct advantage over cellular in terms of network consistency. With a global network like Intelsat’s, car manufacturers benefit from a single network. With a cellular network, they would work with hundreds of terrestrial carriers and need to access multiple distinct technologies around the world for any kind of data broadcasting. Satellite can offer a private or dedicated network from the original source to the vehicle, anywhere in the world. 3. Stable and Secure Communications: Satellite’s ability to provide a global, private network offers auto manufacturers a consolidated distribution opportunity that reduces attack vectors by eight or nine orders of magnitude when compared to cellular in terms of entry and exit points. While privacy issues need to be resolved, insurance providers, car rental companies and others will be able to monitor driver behavior. Cars already have the equivalent of a “black box” that records operational data. With a connected car, this information could be streamed in real-time to a central location. While some motorists might not want their driving monitored, others might want an insurance discount for safe driving. 4. Cost Efficient: In the case of the connected car, it is not the cost-per-bit delivered that matters most, but the value of the content. Since the cost of content is largely independent of the number of receivers, the distributor’s expense to provide content from a satellite broadcast or multicast is the same whether there are 5 receivers or 50 million. 5. Support for the Autonomous Car: As the “driverless” car progresses, satellite connectivity will play a role with certain aspects. Just as unmanned aircraft are autonomous and controlled through satellites, the autonomous car will likely leverage satellite applications for some of its capabilities. Once again, having the global communications platform of satellites will be a distinct advantage over LTE networks. In the next five years, more than 220 million connected cars will be built and sold around the world. How those cars are connected will be fundamental to the communications they can receive and send, not to mention the economics for car manufacturers. Having the same antenna technology (like that Intelsat is developing in partnership with Kymeta) in a car in Uruguay or the United States will be the enabling factor – and Intelsat will be ready with the satellite applications.

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