The quick-fire mobility panel & Q&A session tried to explore the trends, challenges and opportunities the transport and logistics industries present in terms of developments and satellite connectivity requirement.
The panel featured the following speakers: Ahmet Eren, sales director, Eutelsat; Joel Schroeder, director, land mobile, Intelsat; Tom Eskola, VP and GM, Middle East, Central and Southern Asia, and Africa Panasonic Avionics. Aarti Holla-Maini, secretary general ESOA chaired the session.
The first question put out by Aarti to the panelists was the idea of 5G as a network of networks and satellite integration into 5G and how important are standards to this and the mobility sector?
Stressing on the need of standardization, Joel Schroeder said, “The 3GPP standards around waveforms, devices, and other developments within the ecosystem is going to allow the business to scale services more quickly. But from a practical perspective, for a user, having that 5G core as well will allow a much tighter and more seamless integration with terrestrial operators. They'll have the benefit of operating in both terrestrial and satellite mode, whether it's GEO and NGSO or another non terrestrial network. It's going to be a critical component to the future of land mobile.”
Joining the conversation, Ahmet Eren said, “Not only mobility, but for the fixed site, we have around 43,000 sites that is backhaul over satellite. This, we expect to skyrocket as people need more bandwidth. When we introduce the standardization, we are talking about integration, scalability of our niche industry. For the mobility, there are lots of opportunities for the operators to go to mobility which they don't operate today such as IO, maritime with cloud services across the globe to integrate satellite into their product offerings. We are talking about a huge scalable future.”
Tom Eskola, VP and GM, Middle East, Central and Southern Asia, and Africa said the satellite communication technology was being deployed by different companies in different ways and that standardization was a prerequisite. He said that in the mobile industry, the development of the 3GPP standardization for latency and connection have become inherent and a part of the delivery of the system required as a part of the mobile aspects of what they're delivering for mobility and other solutions. “I feel that the with the convergence of these two capabilities and having 5G as a new frequency spectrum that's available, a new way of connecting multiple devices, you're going to have hundreds or even 1000s of devices in very small areas that are that are required to connect in a very consistent way. And the only way you're going to maximize the technology is to be able to have that standardization. I really feel that the standardization over time, needs to be something that comes with the technology as its deployed, and that we adopt those standards.”
The conversation veered towards the relevance of NSGO systems, LEO broadband constellation on the mobility market, considering the price sensitivity of the user segment. Responding to this question, Ahmet Eren said, “Every system capacity will have their own applications and in some parts the customer will have the contract to choose. The price elasticity is important. The price points should be right for the applications to foster new applications. There is price elasticity in every market in mobility as well on the fixed. There will be lots of price elasticity and we will see the demand accordingly. But our task is to provide the right tools and capacity for the customers so that they can make find new markets.”
Adding his perspective, Joel Schroeder said that is some scenarios a GEO satellite is “going to have challenges in certain occasions or certain environments.” “I think there are some very practical requirements there. Key to making this work is going to be the availability of antennas or terminals that will easily switch between the two satellite routes. Having the capability of a single device that connects to the GEO and NGSO is the next gen network strategy. And GSO is certainly a key component of that along with HAPS as well. Looking at different orbits to address different use cases or technical requirements of customers is really a critical component of that network of network strategy,” stressed Schroeder.
Touching upon an important topic of the development of terminals in the mobility sector, the panel tried to find out the importance of low-cost terminals for the sector.
Ahmet Eren felt that it was indeed an important topic to be considered and said that they have been and it's one of the most important topics and we have been also pressuring the manufacturers about price. “But we need to keep in mind that this is a new technology and lots of iterations are ongoing. And in some cases I see that the technology is maturing enough so that the costs are going down. It's an industry problem if I can say so. I can only say that we are getting there and of course with new partnerships and support of the industry, we will emerge to something significant in the future,” he added.
Putting his final thoughts across, Joel Schroeder said, “Terminals have been an issue and certainly Intelsat has made some investments in few companies that are developing new terminal technology. But I think the challenge apart from the price point is the development. The new intended developers that have entered the markets seem to be in a race to get to the fastest yet most efficient terminal option. The pricing is not coming down at the same pace as the technology is potentially evolving. But not every use case needs the same terminal either. I think, the challenge that we're finding is that on one end of the spectrum, you have the new ESA developers that are largely pushing towards faster and more efficient terminals. On the other end, there are a few new IoT platforms with very small, very low cost terminals that certainly fit the needs of certain users. What we're missing is something in the middle, and I'm not just talking about the price point or the size, but what I'd love to see from some of these new ESA manufacturers is a consideration of leveraging their technology for a suite of terminals that meet different use case requirements. So, I think the ideal outcome of this would be to see the terminal developers start to look at how they can leverage your technology into a portfolio of options that meets different user requirements. Particularly in land mobile, the market is so vast and you have so many different users. The needs are not all the same. And I think it would actually translate to a much higher volume of sales for the terminal developers if they were to take a broader look at the market and expand on the options that they built.”