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Recent technology demonstrations by Intelsat are shedding light on how its 5G software-defined unifying network will provide a frictionless connectivity experience that supports global roaming and delivers exceptional communication experiences to everyone.

Intelsat has successfully executed several communications networking demonstrations this Fall; can you share more details about what you’ve been testing and learning?

We’ve had a diverse and exciting mix of trials during the last few months that are important milestones as Intelsat architects its unifying network.

In early November, we partnered with OneWeb and Linchpin Solutions to demonstrate a multi-orbit satellite communications solution for representatives of the U.S. Army and Department of Defense (DoD). It was a strategic demonstration for the U.S. DoD that showed transport diversification between the geostationary orbit (GEO) and low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations with seamless traffic balancing between them. The DoD refers to it as Automated Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency (APACE) communications, and the solution enables soldiers to survive and excel in contested electronic warfare environments. The reliability of communications is significantly improved by simultaneously sending data over multiple paths and adjusting the traffic flow in real-time between GEO and LEO satellite constellations based on user needs and network availability.

Intelsat and OneWeb deployed their respective GEO and LEO services simultaneously, using software to blend the connections to provide the best experience based on the technical requirements of the end service. It was also established that the software solution can be hosted on existing fielded ruggedized virtual machine platforms allowing the system to run in the harshest environments.

Two satellite links were established during the demo – one on the Intelsat 37e (IS-37e) satellite and one on a OneWeb satellite. The links communicated through various end-user terminals, including a SatCube terminal, a Kymeta U8 terminal, a Lite Coms GEO terminal, and a OneWeb Intellian terminal, and the connectivity established through those terminals were blended together, demonstrating applications such as two-way voice and data downloads and MP4 video.

It was a successful demonstration that shows how through the power of partnership, we can provide a reliable, secure, multi-orbit, multi-band capability for the military that connects our warfighters to meet their evolving mission requirements. This solution enables the delivery of required connectivity, throughput and services to customers when and where that reliable access is needed, even in the harshest elements.

We also partnered with Kymeta and applied research organization Fraunhofer, on a demonstration of satellite-enabled 5G services using 5G radio technology developed by Fraunhofer and Kymeta’s electronically steered flat-panel u8 antenna using Intelsat’s global integrated satellite and terrestrial network—the first test of its kind in a mobile environment, and specifically on a moving vehicle.

This trial was a solid step in validating the feasibility of 5G mobile communications over satellite networks and helps advance our understanding so we can realize our future vision of a unified software-defined 5G network on a global scale.

When you consider that only 10% to 15% of the earth's surface is covered by mobile phone networks, it becomes clear that satellites will play a key role in expanding coverage. These successful demonstrations and partnerships between key industry leaders further validate the ability to seamlessly leverage hybrid connectivity across satellite and terrestrial cellular networks to develop solutions that satisfy the overwhelming demand for communications on the move.

How do these demonstrations align with Intelsat’s go-forward strategy?

We’ve made no secret of our work toward a unified network that will provide reliable satellite-based communications to all users in all geographies, including traditionally congested locations or in the DoD’s use case, remote locations and harsh environments. We have already begun creating a highly distributed network comprised of a range of multiple terrestrial and non-terrestrial technologies. The Intelsat unified network is multi-layered, multi-band and multi-orbit.  5G is a cornerstone, which is why we’ve invested a significant amount of time and effort to advance 5G technologies and standards.

These demos are proofs of concept that will inform the next phases of our network development. They also provide tremendous evidence that when industry partners come together, we can drive improvements in space and ground segments and end-user terminals and unlock new market opportunities. We’re confident that an ecosystem of like-minded partners can achieve the vision and implement the changes necessary for our industry to thrive and bring true end-to-end communications to customers.

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