Wyler: “Comms future must be heterogeneous”
November 17, 2022
Greg Wyler, a serial entrepreneur who founded O3b, OneWeb and now the Rwanda-backed e-Space concept of 300,000 low Earth orbiting satellites, explained to delegates his vision for satellite industry at the Riyadh Connecting the World from the Skies event. He said 10 years from now there should be no difference between satellite and terrestrial. “Everything will be blended,” he predicted.
“No longer can operators work as isolated silos. There will be a mushing together,” Wyler explained. “Everyone will have to collaborate and work with others. Ultimately, the consumer wants simplicity. They want things to magically work around them and without high costs. Some things are good. I have an iPhone and I can call on my WiFi network, but if I walk away too far from the WiFi the phone doesn’t switch automatically to a cellular provider. That’s not good. The future has to be heterogeneous and highly collaborative.”
Wyler admitted that there are going to be obstacles, not least from the licencing authorities.
“Take my problem with the iPhone. WiFi is simple, but what about handing over the call to LTE. There are many different versions of LTE. The costs related to testing a phone for every type of LTE are huge, but we are going to get through the problems. I believe that over the next couple of years these ‘convergence’ aims will become a reality. The regulators are getting better. They are younger and understand the challenges and mindful of the technologies and those technologies are able to adapt faster,” he told delegates.
He said that accessing space is itself challenging but not because of a lack of finance or will. “Almost every nation wants to be in space, and every nation has children looking up at the sky and expects developing technologies and to participate in space in the future. But there are problems: one is that the world’s major nations are crowding out the smaller nations. There is another risk. Some of these large satellites can hit each other and thus wipe out the use of space for everyone.”
Wyler said that the Rwanda e-Space business hopes to first build satellites that when at the end of their life they will safely deorbit. He admitted that e-Space has been very quiet about their satellites, and this was not going to change just yet.
“They are ‘next generation’ and they will cleaner in design and efficiency and simpler to build. I am super-enthusiastic at how people at looking at space debris and space safety, and am very hopeful that over the next few years we will have figured out how to have all of society engage in space but to do it in a way that’s not harmful to space and preserves it for our children,” said Wyler.