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SES Announces Launch Dates for O3b mPower Satellites, Service Start Dates
September 23, 2021 News

Written by: Martin Dale Bolima, Technology Writer, AOPG

SES announced on Tuesday, the 21st of September, the soon-to-be-launched O3b mPower system, a next-generation Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) system that is set to deliver multi-gigabit connectivity to industries worldwide, including the cruise and maritime industries. The successor to the hugely successful O3b, mPower will be powered by a constellation of 11 non-geostationary satellites in MEO—the so-called sweet spot distance for optimal performance as it ensures low latency, large Earth view, high throughput, and multiple gigabits per terminal.

“O3b was quite the success in the satellite industry in its time and created a new market for itself,” said Harsh Verma, Regional Director of Fixed Data at SES. “Building on its success, SES is now about to launch our next-generation Medium Earth Orbit constellation called O3b mPower. It is a very exciting innovation in space, which would bring huge amounts of capacity, scalability and flexibility to the Southeast Asia region. With its existing satellite assets, O3b mPower will now add to this capability to fundamentally transform our remote connectivity solutions will be delivered to telcos, mobile operators and defence  organisations in the region.”

Among the key features of O3b mPower are massive reach and throughput thanks to SES’s scalable MEO-GEO strategy, high-performance and low-latency use of infrastructure, dynamic and adaptive control through bespoke software, integrated seamless space/ground infrastructure through a cloud optimised satellite ecosystem and a dedicated beam for each unit for dynamic spectrum allocation and enhanced security.

The O3b mPower ecosystem is diverse and expansive, capable of providing connectivity to a range of industries anywhere in the world.

In addition, SES has partnered with Microsoft Azure, thereby ensuring that the former, through O3b mPower, will be delivering the latter’s full suite of services to customers all around the world, which in turn will accelerate the digital transformation journeys of enterprises worldwide. Microsoft, for its part,  will also be leveraging O3b mPower and SES’s other solutions already in orbit via Microsoft Azure Orbital solutions, which will provide connectivity services to customers “irrespective of the media they are connected with, either fibre, microwave, or the O3b mPower satellites.”

SES will also become the first satellite operator to become an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Direct Connect partner, in effect enhancing cloud connectivity even in remote connections. The partnership was formalised after AWS validated SES’s capability to connect customers directly to the cloud using its network or multi-orbit satellites with GEO or MEO.

Critically, the O3b mPower satellites—the BSS-702X—are being built in collaboration with Boeing, the renowned US-based multinational corporation known for designing, manufacturing and selling aircraft, rockets, missiles, satellites and telecommunications equipment globally. With Boeing’s expertise, the 11 satellites SES will soon be launching into space are all but guaranteed to survive the strenuous launch phase as well as the challenges and rigours they will face in the space environment, like extreme heat and cold.

“One of the things that you’ll notice about the 702X satellite being used for O3b mPower is the size. Compared to the traditionally designed communications satellite, the O3b mPower satellites are quite a bit smaller,” said Ryan Reid, President, Commercial Satellite Systems at Boeing, in a specially prepared video explaining the development process of the 702x satellites. “This is due to both the high level of integration enabled by the advanced integrated payload rate technology, as well as the need to launch multiple satellites at a single time.”

While the launch is set only for October, O3b mPower has nonetheless already signed up several customers, notably cruise industry leader Carnival Corp. & plc, French telecom Orange and iSat Africa. O3b mPower, in particular, will play a key role in Medallion Net, a central component to Carnival’s Medallion Class Experience, which promises a great grand time for both customers and ship staff. Medallion Net will leverage O3b mPower to provide “fabulous connectivity,” regardless of a ship’s location.

“Connectivity is beyond fundamental. It’s one thing to call something important, critical and fundamental. Now, it’s actually beyond fundamental,” said John Padgett, Chief Experience and Innovation Officer at Carnival. “What we did for the first time with Medallion Net was create land-like connectivity. And it’s not just the speed is great, but the reliability is so fundamental to transitioning your entire operation from an offline operation to an online operation that is fully synchronised with the cloud.”

The official launch of the O3b mPower satellites will be spread out over a period of two years starting with the launch of the first three satellites in Q4 of 2021 and the next three on Q1 of 2022. These first six satellites will start providing connectivity services beginning in Q3 of next year, while the full range of service from all 11 satellites is expected to start in Q2 of 2025. Below is the complete deployment schedule of all 11 O3b mPower satellites, along with the estimated start of service.

The fully funded, $2 billion-worth O3b mPower system promises exciting enhancements to the connectivity sphere as early as next year. But already SES is promising to push the envelope even more moving forward to ensure even better connectivity globally—but with an emphasis on the growing Southeast Asian market led by Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.