The epic network

Intelsat’s ambitious plans to unlock newer applications and opportunities
Jean : "Epic satellites have capacity which is between 6x-7x of normal satellites. The smaller kit size enables deployment in areas you couldn't have access to. Because you'll be able to do more with less, the costs are going to be reduced."
Jean : "Epic satellites have capacity which is between 6x-7x of normal satellites. The smaller kit size enables deployment in areas you couldn't have access to. Because you'll be able to do more with less, the costs are going to be reduced."

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Jean-Philippe Gillet, Intelsat’s vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa sales, discusses Intelsat’s ambitious plans to unlock newer applications and opportunities in the region with high-performance next generation satellites that will make ‘doing more with less’ a reality.

Intelsat has long been associated with pushing technological boundaries, having provided infrastructure for the broadcast of mankind’s first walk on the moon in 1969. And while satellite and terrestrial communication has undergone a sea change since then, Intelsat has lost none of its desire to stay at the frontier of innovation.

Indeed, the company recently sparked off a new chapter in communications with the launch of its first EpicNG satellite at the beginning of 2016.

Speaking to CommsMEA on the occasion of CABSAT 2016, Jean-Philippe Gillet, Intelsat’s vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa sales said: “This is a very special year for us. Over the past few years, we have been working on the development of next-generation satellites and January 2016 has witnessed the launch of the Intelsat 29e (IS-29e) - our first EpicNG next-generation high throughput satellite.” He further added that the launch of the second satellite is slated for August 2016, following which the services associated with the same can start sometime in Q4.

In a scenario where the need for better communications is on a constant upward curve, business has been good for Intelsat. Intelsat reported preliminary total revenue of $571.3 million for the three months ended December 31, 2015; and preliminary full year 2015 revenue of $2.35 billion. The company forecasts full year 2016 revenue of $2.14 billion to $2.20 billion. Gillet says that the Middle East market is extremely dynamic and Intelsat has been seeing a constant growth in enterprise and broadband customers.

Recently, Detecon Al Saudia (DETASAD), a provider of satellite telecommunication services, renewed and expanded its contract with Intelsat for Ku-band satellite services to deliver broadband and internet connectivity to corporate networks operating in and outside of Saudi Arabia. DETASAD incorporates Intelsat’s satellite services into one of the largest financial transaction networks in the region, supporting a very large number of ATMs located throughout Saudi Arabia. Along with powering Saudi Arabia’s ATM networks, DETASAD serves a wide range of corporate networks that are used by small and medium enterprises, maritime operators, oil and gas companies, government agencies, and ISPs to help power the country’s economy and deliver services to urban and remote areas.

“With the demand for broadband connectivity only increasing in the Middle East, we look forward to working with DETASAD to deliver high quality, reliable and secure internet and broadband connectivity to corporate enterprises and customers across the banking, oil and gas and government sectors”, says Gillet. He further adds that the requirement for mobile operators and the market for media is still very active in the region, in spite of the presence of IPTV, OTT and the fact that there are many channels that are already operating in the market.

In the Middle East, Intelsat operates in two key areas – the enterprise market and the MNOs. In terms of geography, it has partners all across the region. However, Saudi Arabia is a leading market for the company owing to its size, large population and connectivity requirements. The UAE is yet another very active market for it. The verticals it is primarily focused on include oil and gas, mining, and the banking sector, followed by MNCs which have got operations spread across the globe.

Though the changes in oil prices have affected the economy at large, the fact that satellite communication is core to most of the oil and gas operations has been a saviour for the likes of Intelsat. However, it can’t be denied that budget constraints might affect future deployments and delay operations in the long run.

The recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona witnessed a lot of discussions pointing towards the growing challenges for telcos in the wake of the increasing popularity of OTT players. In such a scenario, can satellite communications facilitate turning the game in favour of the telcos? To this, Gillet explains that since telcos have limited capex, next generation satellites can help them in a significant way to complement the existing terrestrial infrastructure in order to meet the growing demands in data consumption.

According to Gillet, the other challenges telcos have to deal with include issues with reliability of the network, growing demands of data consumption, and also the onus of serving the underserved. Satellite communications can play effectively in this space to ease up matters. For example, data consumption creates too much demand, making networks congested. And satellites can be used as a relay to remove some of the congestion. For areas that still have limited or no connectivity, the time and costs of deploying microwave or fibre infrastructure can be high. In such areas, Gillet believes that the next generation satellites of Intelsat can help by providing ease of deployment as well as significant cost savings.

The demand for satellite communication has grown significantly in recent years. For example, MarketsandMarkets expects the M2M satellite communication market to grow from USD 3.36 billion in 2015 to USD 5.91 billion by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.9% . Recently, Gogo, a leading provider of broadband connectivity solutions and wireless entertainment to the aviation industry, announced its partnership with Intelsat to leverage the shared GEO/LEO satellite network for in-flight connectivity. Gogo’s in-flight connectivity technology will be powered by a high performance shared network featuring reliable, multi-layered Ku-band capacity on the Intelsat EpicNG geosynchronous (GEO) satellites combined with OneWeb’s planned low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation.

The surge in data across the maritime sector helped drive the creation of the partnership between Marlink and Intelsat and the agreement continues to pay dividends. Marlink is now preparing to deliver a quantum improvement in throughput that will help satisfy end-user demand as the first of the Intelsat EpicNG satellites is on schedule to be integrated into the network solution in the second quarter of 2016.

Gillet looks forward to an exciting future with the differentiation brought by the next-generation Epic satellites. “Epic satellites have capacity which is between 6x-7x of normal satellites. So that means, you can do more. The ability to reduce the kit size is very important because that means you can target applications you couldn’t target before either because they are too expensive or because too difficult to deploy. The smaller kit size enables deployment in areas you couldn’t have access to. Because you’ll be able to do more with less, the costs are going to be reduced”, he explains.

Envisioned nearly four years ago, the Intelsat EpicNG platform aims to deliver high performance, improved economics and simplified access hence expanding the addressable market for the company’s solutions. As the company says, it’s no more enough to be simply global; it would be worth waiting to see the way Intelsat’s ‘globalised network’ attempts to transform communications in the MENA region and beyond.

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