Satellite operator SES has introduced plans to vastly increase bandwidth available to shipping, and in particular cruise ships. It said its O3b mPower global plans will begin “a new era in global cloud-scale connectivity and high-power data services”.
This will involve investing billions of dollars in a new constellation of satellites and adding more satellites to an existing network.
SES said the investment will “deliver multiple terabits of throughput” to various mobility, government, military and enterprise markets. In maritime it will be available to shipping customers that need fast broadband and have deck space for the installation of large VSAT antennas. This would most likely involve cruise shipping, which already uses existing O3b satellite coverage, and offshore oil platforms and drilling rigs.
The satellites to deliver this connectivity will be held in medium Earth orbit (meo) and transmit using Ka-band frequencies. SES will also invest in ground infrastructure and new software intelligence, which would complement the existing SES fleet.
Boeing Satellite Systems will be the first O3b mPower technology partner and was contracted to build seven super-powered meo satellites. These are provisionally scheduled to be launched in 2021.
This constellation will have 30,000 fully-shapeable and steerable beams that can be shifted and switched in real-time to align with shipping’s quickly changing growth opportunities. O3b mPower will provide coverage to an area of nearly 400M km2 which represents four-fifths of the Earth’s surface.
SES already successfully operates 12 meo satellites that deliver high throughput and low latency connectivity to the offshore and cruise sectors. SES is launching eight more meo satellites over the next two years to increase the existing constellation to 20.
To drive application across O3b mPower, SES is looking for partners that can produce software intelligence and application-specific hardware, including antennas.