The importance of mobile connectivity cannot be overstated in today’s world, whether for the most developed economies or emerging ones. This is especially true as the networks of today begin their transition to 5G “network of networks”. Important challenges remain about how to provide coverage and connectivity to all populations around the globe. While there are many different ways to accomplish this, utilizing satellite as the backhaul component for mobile terrestrial connectivity remains one of the best to support the world’s growing network of networks approach to communications. By incorporating satellite services into the mobile terrestrial infrastructure, terrestrial mobile operators are able to receive a quick to deploy, reliable, and cost-effective means to bring mobile connectivity to the world’s citizens, no matter where they are located.
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) already use several transmission means (fibre, microwave, satellite) to connect their cell sites to the backbone and/or to back-up unreliable terrestrial connections. In regions with poor or challenged terrestrial infrastructure, MNOs rely extensively on satellite services to connect 2G, 3G and 4G cells to the central infrastructure. This will be even more important once 5G infrastructure is being deployed, as more and more consumers will demand reliable, wide-coverage, cost-effective mobile communications no matter where they are located. Without satellite, overcoming this huge challenge would be commercially unviable.
The use of satellite to support wireless terrestrial backhaul began in the early 2000s and increased as many countries adopted universal service policies and mobile operators had to cover more and more remote locations where terrestrial backhaul was not available: in many cases, this could not be deployed on a timely or cost-effective basis. Today satellite connections are still a quick, low CAPEX and OPEX solution to the problem of connecting remote cell sites and there is significant satellite capacity to support the needs of MNOs globally.
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Satellites will play a vital role in future 5G networks, and the benefits to users, including consumers, governments and industry, will come not from individual technologies, but from the quantum difference these services will make to mankind.