Very few people these days have confidence in satellite delivery to mobile phones, with a few notable exceptions, and two of these are about to begin the process of invading Europe with Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) over the coming months and years. Back in January 2009, after a protracted bidding process, which took in a joint venture between Eutelsat and SES, and separately one from Inmarsat – two 18 year contracts were awarded to deliver such services across all of Europe.
The EutelSat/SES joint venture called Solaris, decided to sell off its rights to EchoStar in January 2014 – still no services and no special satellite launched. This week EchoStar joined Inmarsat in having a satellite in space which is ready and able to reach an individual mobile phone or millions of them at once, with software updates, broadcasts, satellite radio or anything else you like, such as a separate voice band for emergency services. For MSS in Europe it has been a long journey and getting a satellite into orbit (Inmarsat has been testing one since July), is not the end of it. A layered eco-system of service providers have to plan, fund and introduce services and contract with the satellite companies for bandwidth. The satellites can be tuned to speak in any modulations scheme and have antennas that are so large that the signal is amplified and can reach an individual handset from space.
Some of the capacity on both satellites is likely to be uses for DTH video, purely to fixed satellite receivers, like those used by Sky and CanalSat, and capacity for these types of services in Europe has probably all but run out, which has raised the cost per channel. So these satellite service satellites may be purely used in that way, to open up satellite TV delivery for more players.
But given the long time to profit of Sirius XM satellite radio in the US, you would be excused for thinking that such as service was not an ideal candidate in Europe – investors rarely have the stamina for 10 year adventures with bouts of uncertainty – but satellite radio is still largely admired in Europe and especially in France, where multiple entrepreneurs have attempted to bring services to market. Expect cellular operators and service players alike to experiment in the coming years for direct delivery to portable devices.
Whether those are mapping updates to handsets, first responder voice networks, Spotify class music services, or satellite radio. MNOs might use these channels almost like yet another carrier aggregation service or even a broadcast network which is far simpler than eMBMS.
In 2015 EchoStar named its venture EchoStar Mobile and began talking to potential customers back then, so it may have gone some way to service launches, which now testing has been carried out and the satellite handed over to EchoStar, can be uncovered any time now.
The two pieces of spectrum awarded were two 15 MHz strands use frequencies from 1.98 GHz to 2.01 GHz up and from 2.17 to 2.2 GHz down.
Faultline Online Reporter did say in 2012 that you should “not to hold your breath” as these things take time and sometimes miss entire technology generations.
Inmarsat kicked off the MSS launches when the powerful Hellas-Sat went into operation in July, put there by Thales Alenia Space using its Spacebus vehicle and put into space by Ariane and delivering 45 transponders and positioned at 39° East. One of the key things around S-Band is that most regulatory regimes have agreed a separate use of the spectrum on the ground, a Complementary Ground Component. Usually this component does the listening to individual handsets, and the satellite handles delivery to the service, but satellite delivered services cannot penetrate in-building, so the CGC can be used for that also.
Inmarsat says it will serve aviation passenger connectivity – the ability to makes phones calls in the air even when passengers are over water – and safety services for disaster relief all over Europe and DTH.
This week’s addition of the EchoStar XX1 satellite built by Space Systems Loral and based at 10.25 degrees East also with s Complementary Ground Component. It will be pressed into service in Q4. It’s been a long wait.