Powering and Accelerating the True Virtualization of Space
Ken Takagi, Director of Innovative Strategy
When the virtualized era of satellite communications is realized, software will control and command all components of the connectivity process. Satellite users will have access to the bandwidth they need no matter whether in an airplane, on a ship or perhaps driving through a desert hundreds of miles from the nearest cell tower. The various components that comprise the network will be seamlessly interconnected and able to proactively respond to user needs. The process of provisioning or changing broadband connectivity will be done within seconds, not in days, hours or minutes.
This is the future promise of the fully virtualized satellite communications network. Within the space industry, the Intelsat team is championing this move towards virtualization and digital transformation.
In pursuit of this vision, satellite operators today are procuring software-defined satellites that can dynamically control and adjust bandwidth and deliver connectivity with a greater degree of automation, flexibility and efficiency. However, while certainly integral to the overall provision of service, software-defined satellites are only one part of the broader equation. These days, any operator can purchase and launch one of the new software-defined satellites. But without the underlying capabilities, expertise, and modernized systems to integrate them into a broader space and ground network operation, they will not be able to benefit from many of the new capabilities that these satellites offer.
To achieve true virtualization and digitization, a delicate dance must be orchestrated among key components of the network, including intelligent terminals and modems, network hubs located at ground stations around the world, and the satellites themselves. The more these components can seamlessly interact with each other without the intervention of humans, the closer we will get to a truly virtualized and optimized satellite communications network fabric.
With this knowledge as the driver, the Intelsat team is developing a highly sophisticated system that will all but eliminate the manual management of satellite network traffic, optimize bandwidth delivery based on changing conditions and evolving demands, and automatically manage the entirety of traffic flow across the network. The scalable and fully automated approach will allow Intelsat to meet communications demands dynamically, automatically, and intelligently as satellite traffic is routed between end-user terminals, satellites in orbit, and ground stations located around the world.
Intelsat’s network management system will essentially reside in the back office and behind the scenes, but the implications for Intelsat customers will be enormous.
Customers requiring broadband services around the world are in different situations and environments with unique bandwidth needs and SLAs. Some customers will be moving, others in fixed locations, and others still in constantly changing climatic conditions. Their needs and environments may change as they are consuming a given service.
Intelsat will have the capability to understand customer needs, the situations they are in, and automatically and dynamically adjust the network and service to offer an optimal service at all times.
For example, if broadband service is required on a merchant shipping vessel navigating across an ocean, Intelsat’s next generation network, enabled by our back-end infrastructure, will recognize the request and immediately set up the required service. As the ship moves across the ocean through changing weather conditions, bandwidth requirements may change as well. By dynamically managing the constant interactivity between the satellite modem on the ship, the satellite, and the network hub at the gateway, Intelsat will ensure the appropriate adjustments to the service are made to ensure users on board continue to enjoy high quality connectivity.
The advanced and modernized network management capabilities Intelsat is developing will be scalable and able to support the individual needs of thousands of customers accessing the network simultaneously across all business segments. It will start with management of the new software-defined GEO satellites, eventually expanding to multi-orbit operations that will allow for the efficient and intelligent management of resources and traffic across multiple constellations in different orbits, further enhancing Intelsat’s ability to deliver against the bandwidth needs of customers. To effectively virtualize their networks, contribute to the new vision for an enhanced user experience, and compete in the space industry of the future, all operators will need a sophisticated management system. In reality, few will have the resources, expertise, and capabilities to develop it. Deploying and integrating a modernized back-end system throughout our network will accelerate the virtualization of space and serve as yet another testament to Intelsat’s leadership in driving innovation and progress across the industry.