Intelsat wins one, loses another

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Intelsat, despite its bankruptcy process, has launched CellBackhaul over the US for 4G and 5G mobile network operators.

This is good news for the company and users as it will help provide coverage to the rural and suburban regions of the US with little or no access to mobile broadband.

Intelsat says it is providing a “cost-efficient, turnkey managed service to help mobile operators quickly deploy 4G and 5G coverage everywhere, with a focus on rural America.”

“With Intelsat CellBackhaul as part of their network planning strategy, MNOs of any size can cost-effectively offer mobile broadband coverage to these areas – connecting more subscribers, land areas, roadways and IoT devices. In addition to expanding their coverage areas, MNOs can utilise Intelsat CellBackhaul for network densification, and to provide backup coverage, ensuring their subscribers stay connected, anywhere they go,” adds Intelsat.

As the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moves forward with its planned $9 billion 5G Rural Fund, as much as 67 per cent of the US landmass in 49 states and three U.S. territories could be eligible for funds to bring 5G into rural communities and support connectivity needs of American farms and ranches – a tremendous opportunity for US MNOs.

Intelsat says it plans to roll out its CellBackhaul service to mobile operators in additional regions, including Africa, in late 2020.

However, a couple of weeks ago Eutelsat announced it had secured a multi-year contract with Norway’s Telenor Maritime business to provide Ku-band coverage for sailing areas of Europe, trans-Atlantic maritime traffic and including the important Caribbean cruising grounds and South-East Asia.

This was good news for Eutelsat, but it now seems that it was Intelsat which lost the contract. Telenor Maritime CEO Lars Erik Lunoe said: “Eutelsat was selected based on its ability to deliver the right platform/ and service mix to suit our target markets and the flexibility to accommodate our high standards with respect to the latency of voice traffic, capacity management and deployment flexibility.”

The question now is whether this new agreement paves the way for other business once held by Intelsat, in particular the long relationship that’s been in place between Telenor Satellite and Intelsat at 1 degree West. What is certain is that the Eutelsat win/Intelsat loss is symbolic of the challenges Intelsat faces.

Indeed, some Intelsat customers may decide they need to de-risk away from a situation where sales of some assets will at minimum be considered, if not required, by the bankruptcy court. And, at the end of the day, who wants to expose their business to the drama and uncertainty of bankruptcy. 


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