Back in 1945, Sir Arthur Clarke – the science fiction writer best known for penning the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey – proposed the concept of geostationary communications satellites, introducing the concept that three space stations in geosynchronous orbit could provide virtually total worldwide communications coverage. Unfortunately for Clarke, his idea was prescient but his timing was woefully wrong; he never bothered to patent his theory, based on the assumption that such a concept was a long time from becoming reality.
Fast-forward to today, where dramatic technology advances have resulted in the maturation of the satellite broadband industry. Satellite companies are moving into new bands such as Ka and V and deploying technologies such as high-throughput spot beams and adaptive coding and modulation that improve data rates and performance. At the same time, the cost of satellite technology is coming down - both the cost of deploying satellites with the advent of miniaturized CubeSats and the cost of satellite terminals. As a result, consumer satellite services are rapidly becoming virtually comparable to terrestrial broadband.
This has huge implications for a millions of broadband users around the globe who are underserved by terrestrial broadband, particularly in remote regions, as well as for specific industries such as aeronautics, maritime and military, in which ubiquitous connectivity is key for business continuity. In addition, as billions of devices and non-human connections are expected to come online over the next several years as part of the IoT ecosystem, satellite holds the potential to play a major role in either augmenting or replacing terrestrial communications systems.
Yet while this increased relevance is overwhelmingly positive for the communications satellite market, it necessitates a shift in thinking about how services that are delivered directly to the consumer or the SMB/enterprise are created or delivered. If a satellite provider is to effectively compete with terrestrial providers, it must identify and address some of the same challenges as its competitors, including congestion management as a result of increased utilization, security, ensuring quality of experience and compliance with SLAs, enabling differentiated subscriber service such as tiered services, service bundles and subscriber control capabilities and customer experience management.
Openet has a proven track record helping satellite operators navigate this journey, including working with a major North American provider of high-speed satellite broadband services deliver differentiated services and variable pricing to airline customers in the in-flight WiFi market. Most recently, Openet announced that Iridium Communications will implement its Policy Manager solution to manage data consumption by volume and by time, enabling the company to differentiate its subscribers by class and by type of data and impose controls accordingly; over time, Iridium will expand the solution to include other types of policy control including time of day and geography.
Iridium’s strategy, and that of other satellite operators, illustrates the fact that the broadband satellite industry has hit a key inflection point, in which the door has been opened for them to take on a larger role in the communications market. However, in order to best capitalize on those opportunities, operators must have the tools on hand to create and deliver differentiated services that provide value to the end user.