Interviews Operators Satellite

Ronald van der Breggen on 2019 trends and connectivity

Ronald van der Breggen, CCO of LeoSat Enterprises, speaks about what LEO can bring to the world in terms of connectivity and what the future holds.
Ronald van der Breggen.

What were LoeSat’s 2018 achievements?

In 2018, LeoSat achieved a number of significant milestones for the company, including securing investment from a second strategic satellite operator – Hispasat, gaining approval from the FCC to operate our constellation in the US, getting commitments from customers and resellers totalling over $1bn, and entering into an agreement with antenna company Phasor to develop the ground equipment for LeoSat.

What are your plans for 2019?

With the firm backing of the FCC, SKY Perfect JSAT and Hispasat, and over $1bn in customer agreements, we expect to continue to make significant progress in 2019 on the journey to deliver the world’s first business backbone in space, opening up new markets for data networking for enterprise, telecoms and government communications across the globe. Our focus will be on securing additional funding, continuing to optimise the technical parameters and performance of our constellation in conjunction with customer feedback, and working with our stakeholders to sign up new customers for LeoSat’s data communications solution in our key target markets of enterprise, IT networking, telecoms, government and maritime.

What, according to you, are some of the upcoming trends in satellite?

Big data is clearly driving the need for new communications infrastructure, and data volumes are exploding. Global networks are already carrying more than 1 zetabyte of traffic globally, and this is forecast to grow exponentially. This is having a significant effect on the satellite market, with the need to invest in and deploy appropriate infrastructure, particularly as current satellite solutions remain sub-optimal for data and are generally seen as a last resort. So, with the ever increasing demand to move large quantities of data quickly and securely around the world and current GEO satellite solutions remaining sub-optimal for data, there is a growing interest in the major performance advantages of communications networks in LEO, particularly in terms of latency, speed and security.

Broadband and data applications benefit from low-latency communications, which is where LEO satellite constellations provide an advantage over geostationary satellites. And with cyber security and network resilience increasingly becoming a key focus for corporate and government networks, we are seeing a lot of interest in LeoSat’s ultra-secure premise-to-premise network architecture. Essentially a VPN in space, data will travel end to end via optical lasers across a single encrypted network, bypassing terrestrial infrastructure.

Which verticals do you reckon will benefit the most from LEO satellites?

For all the sectors mentioned – telecommunications, multinational enterprise, government services, maritime and energy – LEO systems can solve essential communications and connectivity issues and meet the ever-growing demand to move large quantities of data quickly and securely around the world. For a typical Fortune 1000 company, just a 10% increase in data accessibility will result in more than $65m additional net income.

LEO systems, particularly ones which can combine high throughput with inter-satellite links to provide ubiquitous coverage, connectivity and security, can offer communications capabilities with fibre-like characteristics in terms of costs and features, which will in turn allow a new series of options to connect within the Middle East and to the rest of the world. The key attributes of such systems can be used for several applications, for example, to provide 4G and 5G satellite backhaul to the cellular industry, give banks secured networks with their foreign offices, provide enormous uploading bandwidth required for oil & gas exploration, or allow internet access to passengers on cruise ships.

Why is the MENA market important to you?

We are already working with DCS Telecom, a leading telecoms provider of satellite and networking solutions in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. DCS Telecom will use LeoSat to upgrade its existing satellite solutions, enabling new opportunities through previously unavailable levels of performance combined with worldwide reach.

Tell us about your plans to expand into new markets.

The traditional satcom market can grow into a much larger datacom market, which is said to be 200 to 250 times bigger with LEO. By choosing to launch MPLS routers in space, we are completely mimicking our terrestrial counterparts, while adding extra capabilities in terms of latency and security. This offers a compelling alternative for mission-critical data communication requirements, where data needs to arrive faster and more securely than any alternative option, be it terrestrial or satellite. We can thus offer features and functions beyond those of the terrestrial datacom industry and, better yet, compete and beat terrestrial infrastructure altogether.

So we see expansion in the context of the broader data communication market outside and beyond the traditional satcom market. Financial trading companies, pharmaceutical research centres and online gaming companies are just a few of the new sectors showing interest in the LeoSat network, with key benefits of latency, speed, security and ubiquity.

5G and IoT – How are you addressing increasing demand in these two sectors?

5G: With data traffic predicted to increase almost four-fold by 2020, to 4ZB per year, one of the key challenges for the enterprise sector is achieving scalable, flexible solutions for their expanding networks. 5G is promising ubiquity, high throughput, high density (where needed) and low latency. Not all aspects can be offered through existing infrastructure, and therefore a new network architecture is not merely an option to facilitate the roll-out of 5G, it will become a requirement. Satellite communications can support the roll-out of 5G in many ways. The one that has always been at the forefront is satellite’s ability to cover large territories and cover water, and thus expand the network footprint.

Without the next-generation LEO satellites, 5G networks will take longer to deploy, lack the necessary coverage and be more expensive to build. On the technical side, there are a number of initiatives to bring players closer together in developing the satellite infrastructure aspect of 5G. LeoSat has joined the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite industry working group, to develop a stronger integration of 5G between terrestrial and satellite telecom operators.

Through the Satellite for 5G Initiative, ESA and the European space industry are joining forces to develop and showcase the added value that satellite brings in the context of 5G. They will collaborate on 5G service trials using satellite, with a focus on those vertical sectors for which 5G will be highly relevant, such as transport, media and entertainment and public safety. While focusing on these markets, there are activities in the areas of application development, standardisation, resource management, interoperability and other supporting technologies.

With regards to IoT, the rapidly advancing price/performance capability of computing, storage and bandwidth is contributing to an adoption rate for the digital infrastructure that is two to five times faster than previous infrastructures, such as electricity and telephone networks. By 2020, there will be 50bn internet-enabled devices. Those 50bn devices will become interconnected into a web of the IoT for the intelligent home and smart cities. As billions more devices become connected to each other, reliable and secure connections are required to support this new ecosystem. Satellite networks are playing an increasing role in the IoT segment, which permeates all industry verticals and processes (telecoms, enterprise, maritime and agriculture).