SES ‘SATis5’ experiment could be worth billions

On December 14th, we reported on a fascinating test, the ‘SATis5’ project, being run by satellite company SES, Fraunhofer FOKUS, Fraunhofer IIS, Newtec, Technische Universität Berlin, Universität der Bundeswehr München and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The SATis5 project is designed to demonstrate how satellites can be used in the growth and management of 5G telephony.

The initiative could have dramatic importance for the satellite industry. For example, Intelsat is firmly backing a US joint application (with chipset giant Intel) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to permit some of its C-band frequencies for 5G traffic. SES also controls significant C-band bandwidth capacity which could be most useful to the growth and bandwidth needed for 5G telephony, especially over the USA where demand could be considerable.

The testbed infrastructure will comprise SES’s fleet of Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites, which will be integrated with terrestrial networks and state-of-the-art technologies. In addition to providing the space segment, SES’s headquarters in Luxembourg will also host a SATis5 testbed node with prototypes of networks for satellite integration, along with other nodes located in Berlin and Erlangen, and an additional portable node.

When the Intelsat 5G/C-band initiative was first mooted in October 2017 their share price near-doubled almost overnight, as the market recognised the impact of the suggestion.

Intelsat, in a November 15th supplementary filing to the FCC, admitted that existing spectrum and the services that depended on C-band would have to be protected, and that there were complex problems to be solved. However, the FCC filing stated: “The Intelsat-Intel proposal best achieves the ultimate goal shared by many commenters of making mid-band spectrum available for 5G services. The Intelsat-Intel proposal will harness market incentives to make highly-valuable mid-band spectrum available where it is most needed to support terrestrial mobile demand voluntarily, at least cost to society and existing FSS customers, quickly (within 1-3 years).”

SES agrees: “We are very excited about this ESA 5G testbed development and demonstration project, as it brings us another step closer to rolling out the next generation of communication networks,” said John-Paul Hemingway, EVP/Product, Marketing and Strategy for SES Networks. “Our extensive fleet delivers performance and unparalleled reliability, successfully complementing terrestrial networks. This is essential in providing maximum service coverage and capacity for 5G.”

The bottom line for Intelsat and SES is simple. Solve the problems and the successful use of satellite capacity could simply be worth millions.

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