Spectrum is the lifeblood of the telecommunications industry. It is a scarce and limited resource craved, now more than ever, by both mobile operators and satellite communications providers, both eager to develop and deliver innovative new applications and services to business and consumer end users.
Historically, terrestrial mobile technology and satellite technology have been dependent upon providers having access to various spectrum allocations. Typically, mobile operated in lower frequencies while satellites operated in higher frequencies. For decades, satellite operators delivered a range of critical services, from emergency communications to the first global television broadcasts, and continue to evolve their offerings to meet the needs of the market. Wireless operators have also evolved with multiple generations, from 1G to 5G and 6G. With mobile operators tapping into higher frequencies, the two industry sectors inevitably began jostling for spectrum. Although this positive tension does not overshadow the symbiotic relationship between the two sectors, it has created an industry challenge as mobile operators seek to acquire spectrum, while satellite providers vie to retain their ability to serve their customers and publics.
Led by Intelsat, the industry is in the throes of a major virtualizing and digitization effort. Cloud technologies and software-defined satellite networks are reducing bandwidth costs, improving the portability of equipment, and enhancing interoperability with terrestrial networks. Next-generation satellite networks are poised to further close connectivity gaps around the world and make it possible for business users and consumers to enjoy a consistent, high-quality connectivity experience on the ground, in the air, or at sea. For all of this, spectrum is required.
And there’s the regulatory hurdle. In addition to rampant hunger for spectrum resources from the mobile industry, satellite operators are also challenged with updating rigid and antiquated regulatory frameworks that are out of step with technology and customer demands. These regulatory frameworks, many conceived decades ago, curtail the ability of satellite operators to use spectrum efficiently.
With satellite companies like Intelsat expanding and evolving their networks to respond to the explosive demand for high-speed connectivity experiences in all places, erosion of spectrum access and the presence of outdated regulations are stifling innovation and limiting the true potential of the industry.
Advancing the quality and availability of connectivity for all and meeting the requirements of discerning users expecting constant high-speed access requires a fair and balanced approach to spectrum sharing and allocation. Intelsat believes in this approach and is working across industries and borders for the betterment of all within the telecom sector.
Spectrum is a finite asset that must be cherished. As evidenced by Intelsat’s complex C-band clearing initiative that ultimately freed copious amounts of spectrum for 5G services, the company has long demonstrated pragmatism, deep expertise in extracting maximum value from the spectrum and managing it for the greater good. Regulators are in an unenviable position trying to balance the needs of all stakeholders. Going forward, spectrum allocation decisions should be made in a measured way, with a focus on the facts, not the hype, and the broader needs of society.