High-speed broadband via satellite – thoughts from the 5th ISI SatCom day

ESA Satellite over Earth

ESA satellite orbiting Earth – soon delivering high-speed broadband? (Photo credits: ESA/AOES Medialab)

Yesterday, on 14 November, I attended a very interesting workshop in Brussels, the 5th ISI SatCom day, where I met many people from the satellite community. The workshop was organised by the Integral Satcom Initiative (ISI), one of the European Technology Platforms (ETPs). I was representing the FP7 project Networked Society (NetSoc), which aims to define the requirements for future networks supporting the networked society of the future. At the workshop we discussed the economic models for addressing the European Digital Agenda by providing a significant part of the high-speed broadband via satellite.

Some heated arguments between strong-minded panel members and the audience concluded that the satellite technology has a role to play in the European broadband roll-out. The disputes, however, were on exactly which role satellite should play:  total service delivery, hybrid service delivery models or integrated broadcast services.  The integrated broadcast services are not new and are successfully used in many European countries today.  Arguments on latency and costs seemed to mitigate against satellite internet delivery but points on rural and dispersed communities were in favour of satellite.

There are more complex hybrid scenarios of potential intelligent future networks that can detect when some content is, by popular demand, more suited to be broadcast and cached locally. These scenarios could be a major mechanism for facilitating the use of satellite distribution to offload the backbone network of literally millions of copies of the same video of a silly cat falling on its head.

These hybrid scenarios need more work, but exciting developments like SAT>IP, which will facilitate the seamless integration of satellite delivered content into home networks and user devices, show the potential contribution satellite technology can make.

It may be that these satellite solutions still need to demonstrate exactly how they fit in the Horizon 2020 perspective of the Digital Agenda in Europe. But if the future demands of the European society for digital information and services is to be accommodated in the large scale and volumes foreseen, then we need every bit of the satellite capacity working in clever synchronisation with the terrestrial fixed and mobile networks to satisfy the expected demand.

Now we just need to work out how to integrate the systems and to advance the technology so the costs are appropriate to stimulate the emergence of the future networked society in Europe.

This workshop was a good start, and I look forward to the follow-up activities.

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