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Gint Atkinson, VP of Network Strategy and Architecture Technology at SES Networks, has said that its next generation Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) constellation, O3b mPOWER, will be an industry game-changer. Telecom Review managed to secure an interview with the charismatic executive at Telecoms World Middle East who eloquently expressed what his future predictions were within the ever-evolving satellite industry ecosystem.

In a fascinating discussion, Atkinson outlined his role and responsibilities at SES Networks, the impact emerging technologies like 5G will have for satellite operators, the challenges facing the industry, and its strategic market focus to maintain growth over the next twelve months.

Can you tell us what SES Network is showcasing here at Telecoms World?
We're using Telecoms World Middle East to showcase our exciting new innovation - O3b mPOWER. O3b mPOWER is our new MEO constellation that's going to deliver unprecedented capacity. The O3b mPOWER constellation will comprise seven satellites, with each satellite will be delivering over 4,000 beams, so we're looking at a terabit-scalable system that provides us with great flexibility that can pick up customers and deliver them to any place they want to go.

Using O3b mPOWER, we're going to deliver massive amount of data for customers to data centres around the world, especially in remote areas which are lacking terrestrial networks. We will be able to retrieve data and deliver it to where it can be picked up by major cloud providers such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google and IBM. This new solution is a big game-changer, especially because this is built on our successful O3b MEO constellation which has been offering reliable and fibre-like connectivity. O3b mPOWER, when launched in 2021, will be integrated with our existing O3b and GEO satellites, enabling our customers to deliver data and video content much more effectively and efficiently than any other constellations.

Can you outline to us what your main roles and responsibilities are as VP of Network Strategy and Architecture Technology at SES Networks?
My main role and responsibility is to identify and define our future network service platform. The biggest aspect of that is determining how we're going to take satellite technology and integrate it seamlessly with 5G networks. With SES playing a leading role in satellite-5G integration, and actively involved with 5G-related standardization activities, my role is to commercialise these standards into products and services that can benefit out customers.

In addition to this, my other primary responsibility is to build platforms that are  going to integrate our GEO satellites and MEO constellation. The aim here is to create managed end-to-end services and platforms that will offer the best customer experience. The idea is to optimize the utilization of all our assets across orbits and offer up a single point of service to the customer.

Demands for IoT, 5G and Cloud are set to grow. What is SES Networks doing to ensure success in these emerging potential revenue streams?
On a commercial front, we're looking at how we deploy our network and determine what capabilities we're going to have. We're going to put more infrastructures out at the edge and we aim to build the capability for mobile edge computing. This will allow us to extend mobile network capabilities - 4G, 5G and LTE all the way out to the edge.

In addition to this, we will be able to cache content at the edge and offer compute. This is going to build the stickiness factor with our connectivity services and it's also going to attract many more players onto our network. So instead of just providing satellite capacity, we're going to be providing LANS connectivity and 5G edge infrastructure. We're targeting that the 5G edge is going to be designed for wholesale services for hosting so other mobile providers will come and put their service at our edge.

I have also mentioned that SES is very active when it comes to setting critical industry standards and technology initiatives - we are constantly engaging with government and institution bodies on 5G polices, playing a leading role in jointly defining the technology roadmap and ecosystem development, and partaking in key 5G trials.

In your expert opinion, what are the biggest challenges currently facing the satellite industry?
The biggest challenge is positioning satellite services within the emerging 5G ecosystem. Where do we, as satellite operators, fit in? As a satellite operator, our greatest strength lie in our ability to take our customers from the edge to the cloud, and bringing it back from the cloud to the edge. This strength is based on satellite's ability to reach millions of people in one single beam regardless of geographical terrains and physical distances. This particular strength is also what will enable us to deliver a lot of edge-based service that is essential for a cloud- and 5G driven- world.

We believe we have an important and critical role to play here, and will need technical solutions to ensure that satellite communication fit in with the whole 5G ecosystem and architecture.

What are your main goals and objectives for the next twelve months?
Whether it's the deployment of 4G services or providing high-performance internet, these managed services enabled by us have completely transformed communities and businesses of people living in remote North America, underserved islands of Pacific Islands, underconnected Latin America as well as landlocked African countries. Hence my primary goals are to build more platforms that will host  more managed services based on multiple fleets, and launch edge capability and edge based service. As we move towards working with more cloud partners such as IBM Cloud, we will be working to launch more services so they can integrate with actual cloud-based services.

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