In the next two months, SES Networks expects to transform the communications industry when it sends a request for proposal out for a software-controlled satellite that can be used for multiple purposes, out of the virtual box.
Speaking at Cape Canaveral's Expedition Tower on May 31, the day before its SES 12 mission with SpaceX was postponed until 12:30 a.m. on June 3, SES executives discussed the pending communications satellite launch as well as the near-future developments the operator predicts lie ahead.
SES Networks operates a large fiber network on the ground, as well as a growing fleet of satellites including GEO (Geostationary Earth Orbit) and MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) models. The set-to-launch SES-12 is a GEO satellite designed to expand SES's capabilities to provide direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting, video satellite, mobility and high-throughput satellite (HTS) data connectivity services in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.
While every satellite launched today is purpose-designed, that will change, said Martin Halliwell, chief technology officer at SES.
"What we're trying to do is build identical satellites -- whether they're going to MEO, whether they're going to be GEO, whether they're going to be used for direct-to-home, whether they're going to be used for data, whether they're going to be used for mobility -- identical spacecraft ... from input to output," he said. "This is what we're working on and we're very, very close now to issuing an RFP on this. The RFP will be going out in probably two months' time. We've cracked it. We know how to do this now."
Taking Standards Out of This World
"A lot of our satellites are moving, so it's SDN but the topology map is not static," said JP Hemingway, CEO of SES Networks.
The concept of multi-purpose, software-driven satellites comes, in part, from lessons learned from SES Networks' participation in industry standards groups such as MEF, John-Paul (JP) Hemingway, SES Networks CEO, told Broadband World News at the press event. In late 2017, for example, the managed data service provider received MEF Carrier Ethernet 2.0 certification, he said. SES Networks also participates in a number of cableco and telco open source and other standards-oriented organizations, said Hemingway.
"We have a large fiber network. We have to control all our Ethernet, architecture and everything on the ground but it has to be able to connect directly up to the satellites," said Hemingway. "We have to make sure the APIs that are effectively controlling the source of our capacity in the skies are the same APIs that we use to control the ground equipment. A lot of our satellites are moving, so it's SDN but the topology map is not static. It's almost like an extra degree of freedom that we need these standards bodies to embrace but the feedback has been really interesting. It's not just about ground; it's actually a whole new use case."
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