O3b mPOWER: Technology

O3b mPOWER: Technology

SES’s EVP of Technology discusses what O3b mPOWER will mean for our customers across industries

Today, connectivity is an indispensable part of our lives. But how do industries and governments that operate in the most remote locations access connectivity? Whether it’s supporting emergency operations or assisting a country’s economic growth, reliable internet and data access can make a world of difference.
We spoke to Stewart Sanders, EVP of Technology at SES, about how O3b mPOWER will facilitate better connectivity for our customers—even in the most remote areas of the globe.

What is O3b, and how did it come into being?
The O3b concept is all about connecting the unconnected. Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) constellations, at 36,000km above Earth, have a longer round-trip delay. For O3b, we invested in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) to reduce this round-trip delay—or latency—and also started using the Ka-band. O3b’s ability to leverage the low latency of MEO and high throughput capabilities of the Ka-band have allowed us to provide unprecedented levels of connectivity to our customers. It has quickly made us the biggest data services provider in the Pacific, and the fastest growing satellite operator in the world.

As the fastest growing satellite operator in the world, how are we differentiating ourselves from our competitors?
We certainly don’t regard ourselves as just a satellite operator anymore. Today, we’re more about managed data service provision. And we are very serious about our customer-first approach. We have a customer advisory board, where we invite executives from various industries, and have an open and honest discussion about SES initiatives and solutions. Since these executives are from different industries‚ with differences in terms of size and focus, based in different locations, the feedback we receive is often mixed. But, at least we are hearing directly from our customers about how we can serve them better. And then we use this feedback to drive our business strategy. This is hugely valuable to us, especially as we build new solutions. For us, our customers are weathervanes for the business.

What benefits are we delivering with O3b?
With the current O3b MEO capability, we have a lot of high bandwidth terminals across the globe within the coverage area of the O3b MEO constellation. We provide trunk services to ISPs, global governments, energy providers, the cruise industry, and the aeronautical and maritime industries.

O3b MEO is also bringing connectivity to the most remote locations in the world. There is a direct correlation between communications access and the economic growth of a country. For instance, with internet access, a farmer can better determine which crops to grow—based on information on crop prices, weather conditions, market dynamics, and more. Connectivity aids education, health access, and tourism—all important factors impacting a country’s economic development.

What exactly is O3b mPOWER, and what is it going to bring to the table?
With O3b mPOWER, we’re leveraging our existing O3b MEO constellation, but we’re doubling down. Today, O3b MEO is able to provide 10 user beams per satellite. With O3b mPOWER, we will be able to provide thousands of user beams per satellite. For our customers, this will bring a lot more flexibility in terms of the gateways and user beams they can use.

Initially, O3b mPOWER will have seven satellites adjacent to the existing O3b MEO constellation. But it’s not just about these seven satellites. We are building an ecosystem—combining these seven satellites with the existing O3b MEO and GEO constellations, and terrestrial components—so our customers can access all of SES’s infrastructure, and define the best means of delivery for each packet of data.

It will provide many more user endpoints, improve link budgets, provide much more connectivity, increase flexibility, lower the cost per bit, and allow us to scale up. It will help us serve existing business segments better, while also allowing us to serve some segments that we haven't had the capacity to serve in the past. O3b mPOWER is going to be a game changer for us, and for our customers.  

Are our customers excited about O3b mPOWER?
Yes, there is a lot of interest around the kind of capabilities and connectivity we’re bringing with O3b mPOWER. By combining O3b MEO and GEO capabilities within the O3b mPOWER ecosystem, we can bring the cloud closer to the end customer, and enable edge computing to support things like 5G in a way that hasn't been done before.

We’re also bringing flexibility to data flow. The forward to return ratio for residential broadband, for instance, is very different than the one for ISRs. Yet, a lot of GEO high throughput satellites today are highly optimised for particular types of delivery. Today, with the current O3b MEO system, and certainly with O3b mPOWER going forward, we can ensure that the forward to return ratio is flexible to match the requirements.

With O3b mPOWER, we can manage the space segment, create beams for our customers, move those beams for a mobility service, apply more bandwidth to the beam, reduce the bandwidth, or contract the bandwidth to another, according to the customers’ need—almost on a minute to minute basis. So, we can really tailor the solution to the customer, and do it in a dynamic way.