Factoring 5G into the Future of Satellite Service Providers



Mobile backhaul and base station networking have long been an important business for satellite and teleport operators. NSR estimates that satellite-based cellular backhaul in-service units will grow at double-digit rates from about 40,000 in 2016 to more than 120,000 in 2027. The roll-out of 5G mobile service has the potential to accelerate that growth. The 5G standard will provide devices on the network with between 1 and 10 Gbps of speed with practically unlimited capacity – which translates into a requirement for backhaul that is 100 times greater than today. To keep deployment costs manageable, 5G networks will centralize most processing in data centers and use new technologies to interconnect baseband units with remote radio units at the edge, something known as fronthaul. That centralization means that fronthaul traffic will add considerably to the capacity demands of 5G. The long-term roll-out of 5G therefore depends on managing a hybrid mix of fiber, microwave and satellite. Teleport and satellite operators face a long-term opportunity to expand into the mobile niche and become much more than a service provider of last resort as they are today. What do they need to do now to prepare themselves for the opportunities to come?