Satellite provider SES teases US cellular, 5G cloud customers

Last week, satellite provider SES described two sets of tests it conducted with “a major mobile operator and cloud provider in the U.S.” The blog post didn’t provide names or state if the “major mobile operator” would formally become a customer of SES services in the future based on the “multiple field tests and technical demonstrations.”

SES says the trials provide new opportunities for mobile opportunities to extend the reach of their networks. Satellite connectivity could provide low-latency high-speed large capacity broadband to cellular carriers for backhauling traffic.

According to SES, “a leading mobile operator” who had previously conducted tests to remote locations using GEO and MEO satellite services wanted to test SES’s O3b mPower MEO constellation for providing backhaul in 5G deployments.   SES setup equipment at test locations at “the mobile operator’s facilities in Texas,” including both 4G and 5G voice and data use cases to measure quality stress test load capacity and evaluate performance.

Conducted over a week, SES says 10,000 simultaneous calls were maintained over a 10 hour period using a single MEO satellite link, delivered “fiber-quality” video latency and a mean opinion score (MOS) for voice quality of 4.23 out of 5, with the MEO test configuration delivering 900 Mbps of aggregate throughput. A final test connected a 5G handset to a 5G ultrawideband eFEMTO at each location to test 5G video call quality over the satellite link.

“While impressed by the capacity and performance of the voice and data tests, the mobile operator’s team couldn’t believe the quality of the 5G video call – they didn’t think a high-quality 5G experience over satellite was possible,” said Christian Rodriguez, SES’s Senior Engineer of the O3b mPOWER system and technical lead for the testing project. “It really opened their eyes to the new options what our MEO system can provide to various use cases.”

SES also demonstrated the ability to support a private network with a cloud-hosted 5G core, working with a “major U.S.-based cloud provider” for the exercise.  The demonstration used a 5G smartphone connected to a private network setup in an office building outside of Seattle, with the network connected to a 5G core hosted in a public cloud facility in Ashburn, Virginia through a SES Cloud Direct connection over its O3b network.

The entire demo was setup and run by a single person — “not an engineer,” according to SES.  Using off-the-shelf equipment, software in the cloud, and the low-latency MEO connection, the demo achieved around 100 milliseconds (ms) of latency between locations.  The proof of concept highlighted how enterprise customers or smaller operators can setup a 5G private network using low-cost equipment and the public cloud to create an affordable solution that can scale with demand.

Amazon AWS and Microsoft’s Azure have both been associated with 5G cloud core deployments, with AT&T, Dish Networks, T-Mobile and Verizon all making announcements around 5G and various cloud and edge solutions.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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