With the continued evolution of satellite technology, the world is becoming an increasingly smaller place. Areas that were once impossible to reach – cargo ships in the middle of the Pacific or airplanes flying at 35,000 feet – can now stay connected 24/7.
Despite these advancements, however, many areas of the globe still lack communications infrastructure. In areas where factors like low population density and rugged terrain make it difficult to build a terrestrial network, satellite is the obvious choice for fast deployment. Unfortunately, mobile network operators (MNOs) can still struggle to build business cases to profitably connect the unconnected.
Intelsat Solves the Problem
Last year, Intelsat introduced its managed solution, IntelsatOne Mobile Reach 2G/3G/4G. It enables cellular providers to efficiently expand their network coverage into low average revenue per user (ARPU) regions that lack electrical infrastructure and were previously uneconomical to serve.
The offering, which utilizes Intelsat EpicNG high-throughput satellites, is a game changer. Its operational costs are minimal compared to the prohibitive costs of operating and maintaining newly laid terrestrial wired and wireless networks that can be subject to vandalism and sabotage.
Mobile Reach 2G/3G/4G was not born overnight; the solution represents an evolution in the company’s history selling satellite capacity for cellular backhaul – the connection between cell towers and the rest of the network that facilitates mobile phone service. In most developed areas, backhaul runs on terrestrial fiber networks, but in remote areas, fiber is less feasible, both from a logistics and financial standpoint. Satellite technology fills the gap.
Historically, most customers that have utilized Intelsat’s capacity for cellular backhaul have been large MNOs who construct and manage their own cell towers. As the mobile connectivity industry continues to advance, however, many MNOs are moving away from proprietary cell towers and beginning to outsource the build-out and management of this infrastructure, choosing instead to lease capacity on a managed network.
Intelsat’s Mobile Reach 2G/3G/4G turnkey solution capitalizes on this industry trend to give MNOs everything they need to cost-effectively put up a cell site and quickly deliver 2G, 3G or 4G service to underserved.
Working with select technology vendors and partners, Intelsat provides everything from the tower to the satellite capacity to optional solar panels to get a remote cellular network up and running, along with ongoing network management as the network grows. MNOs are not responsible for any upfront equipment investment, which frees up capital to focus on other business priorities. Additionally, the entire offering is in compliance with regulatory requirements and Universal Service Obligations.
MNOs Gain Flexibility and Efficiency
There are several reasons why MNOs may need to provide service in a remote area – perhaps there is a notable opportunity for growth in the region or their spectrum licenses stipulate that they serve rural areas in addition to urban zones.
No matter the cause for expansion, the flexibility of the offering enables Intelsat to deliver a tailored solution that meets MNOs’ specific needs for a given region. It allows them to expand service into areas that may lack infrastructure and an electrical grid, and it can support the requirements of small-cell sites regardless of location or geography.
In addition to flexibility, Mobile Reach 2G/3G/4G delivers efficiency. Intelsat EpicNG satellites enable MNOs to leverage equipment that is more compact and less power-hungry, including smaller, more cost-effective and portable antennas that can be carried across challenging rugged, rural terrain.
These small antennas can be fed by solar panels, a much more efficient and durable power source than diesel generators, which require maintenance, need regular refueling and are prone to fuel theft.
Overall, the hardware has a lighter footprint, and operational expenses are reduced. With the ability to share capacity across multiple sites, Intelsat’s services mitigate deployment risks and help drive immediate growth.
The benefits delivered by Mobile Reach 2G/3G/4G are clear – both for cellular providers and end-users. Providers can expand their markets, and end-users enjoy reliable connectivity for, perhaps, the first time. Intelsat works with many of the world’s leading MNOs to help make that connectivity possible and affect positive change for these regions and their customers.
Todd Cotts is the Senior Principal Product Marketing Manager at Intelsat.