Why Next-Generation MEO is Ideal for Government Applications

Why Next-Generation MEO is Ideal for Government Applications

Eric Watko, Executive Vice President, Product, Marketing & Strategy, SES Networks

This year, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Global MilSatCom 2018 Conference in London. Each time, this important conference brings together the leading satellite industry professionals, thought leaders and decision makers from governments and defense organizations to share best practices, discuss new technologies and explore the evolving defense and security needs.

This year’s conference was exceptionally timely and interesting. That’s because the role of space-related technologies is changing, driving governments into the era of cloud-scale network-centric capabilities. 

Much of that change has to do with the increased reliance on ICT applications in remote locations. The use of connected applications in defense and security is at an all-time high and growing. Demand for global throughput is anticipated to reach over 78Gbps by 2025, growing at 8% CAGR.

Today’s troops are expecting the same level of communication, collaboration and connectivity while deployed as they have back in HQ. Decision makers are relying on high-definition, full-motion video in real time, while in the past, grainy pictures received with a significant time-delay would have to suffice in many scenarios. Furthermore, governments are increasingly turning towards innovative acquisition models, in order to facilitate access to the necessary capabilities and managed services. This allows them to benefit from innovative high-tech solutions offered by commercial sector and to focus on the success of the missions.

New applications require increasingly higher connectivity speeds, bandwidth and information security. For some UAV platforms, throughput requirements per terminal in the return direction will more than double in five years, reaching 100Mbps or more. That is the throughput that will be needed to simultaneously retrieve data from multiple sensors, deliver live streaming for enhanced situational awareness and safety. 

Reliable networks, powered by proven low-latency capabilities

High-tech applications for government missions need to meet a certain level of security, robustness and agility, and in addition are often latency-sensitive. This has left government customers looking for innovative solutions that can cater for these applications, while making sure they get the best value for the taxpayer’s money. We are also in the presence of a huge shift towards the network-centric operations, which is becoming the new normal for the military. 

To this end, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) constellation is ideally positioned to meet the bandwidth and latency requirements and brings huge advantages to government users, especially over the proposed LEO satellite constellations that are yet to prove their concept and are not yet even fully funded, let alone launched and proven.

Our O3b MEO managed services have been making a huge difference over the past few years, with U.S. DoD being one of the early adopters of fibre-like connectivity to power operations, globally. Earlier this year, SES Government Solutions was awarded the Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA), enabling U.S. DoD customers to further facilitate access to O3b MEO managed services. 

We are committed to making MEO interoperable, easy to adopt and seamlessly integrated with existing infrastructure. For governments, this means assurance that they will have quick access to the necessary capabilities without going through drastic additional investment process while the technologies evolve. In this context, MEO services adoption is a smart approach that meets both today’s and future requirements. In the end, new, disruptive technologies should come with an ease of use and seamless integration, and in no way as something that governments would struggle to adopt.    

Scaling opportunities for governments

To meet the upcoming needs of governments, we have further invested in O3b’s next-generation system. Known as O3b mPOWER, the new satellite communications system is fully funded, already under development, and will bring flexible, terabit-scalable capacity.

With multiple layers of active and inherent security, flexibility and ability to provide real-time data monitoring and transfer, O3b mPOWER’s ubiquitous connectivity is ideal for cloud-scale network-centric military operations for two main reasons. 

First, O3b mPOWER is able to land a beam precisely where it is needed and will have the ability to deliver the right amount of Mbps into any single spot. This flexibility enables governments to use O3b mPOWER to serve both high- and low-density locations. Second, the system will enable government users to autonomously manage beam capacity and location – allowing them to shape, moderate, steer and switch the beams (more than 5,000 of which are available on each of the initial seven satellites) to different locations.

Next-generation MEO is scheduled to be launched in 2021. It will further boost a massive shift from local storage to secure, cloud-based, network-centric operations, meeting the requirement for fibre-like connectivity in any location. O3b mPOWER complements our multi-orbit fleet of over 70 GEO and MEO satellites, and together, they will be vital in helping governments mitigate the risks and focus on the missions, in the most cost-effective manner. 

Future-proof approach

Among major priorities raised by various stakeholders during MilSatCom 2018 were the efficient ways of enhancing synergies of the commercial and defense and security sectors, as well as the importance of the ground segment interoperability. Governments are increasingly opening up to the innovation and flexibility of the commercial sector, as it allows to improve the economics of secure communications systems and adopt new technologies as they evolve. This is where SES Networks’ assets and technologies come in to ensure state of the art mission support to governments around the world. We will continue to focus and invest in tailored end-to-end satellite communications solutions to deliver resilient, secure and diverse services so that governments and institutions can safeguard their territories and improve the lives of their citizens.