SES supports private 5G, edge with Microsoft in Taiwan

SES, which operates both geostationary (GEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites, says it’s all for supporting private 5G and edge applications.

SES’s MEO constellation helped provide communications for first responders at the Hsinchu Fire Department in Taiwan, along with technology from Microsoft Azure and Taiwanese infrastructure provider Pegatron.

The idea was to create a high-bandwidth, low-latency communication system for the fire department to use in response to disasters. As SES points out, Taiwan’s location in an active tectonic region makes it prone to natural hazards like earthquakes, landslides and flooding.

Specifically, Microsoft and Pegatron created a private 5G network by combining Pegatron’s open Radio Access Network (RAN) technology and Microsoft’s Affirmed 5G core solution; they were both hosted on an Azure Stack Edge Compute platform.

They deployed the platform on a mobile truck, along with other networking gear like routers, GPS devices and SES 03b MEO terminal technology. That allowed the Taiwanese government to establish 5G services in the event terrestrial connectivity was disrupted.

In this case, it enabled real-time Microsoft Teams communication between emergency vehicles and the local fire station, as well as 4K video transmission from the vehicle to City Hall via the cloud. It delivered data throughput of 50 Mbps on forward and return paths and network latency of less than 185 milliseconds.

This was a demonstration that may be moving to a permanent state, with some pieces of the puzzle yet to be worked out, according to Sergy Mummert, SVP, Global Cloud & Strategic Partnerships at SES Networks. SES’s O3b is a commercial Ka system.

SES also is looking to deploy more systems like this as part of Microsoft’s partner network, although it also works with other cloud providers.

“For us, we look forward to finding the next location where we can do this,” Mummert told Fierce.

SES did something similar earlier this year with Microsoft and Nokia where Australian Defense was given remote access to Azure cloud services.

SES recently announced a multi-year capacity renewal agreement with Claro Brasil to enable the delivery of enhanced 4G/5G-ready services via its O3b mPower networks, which is SES’s second-generation MEO system.

O3b mPower is designed to provide significantly more capacity than SES’ current O3b network in MEO, but its service debut has been pushed back later into 2023, according to SpaceNews.

In the U.S., SES has relationships with AT&T and Verizon when it comes to things like restoring critical communications, but it hasn’t announced any private 5G or edge deals.

SES is one of the satellite companies vacating C-band spectrum in the U.S. to make way for 5G. The company remains on track to capture $170 million in additional gross proceeds this year due to its agreement with Verizon for early clearing.

Last year, SES shared that it had completed multiple field tests and technical demonstrations with a major, unnamed mobile operator and cloud provider in the U.S. to showcase 5G possibilities.

SES has done some deals where it works directly with clients, like the cruise ship lines, but its model principally is to go to market with partners, Mummert said.

SES is well established in the satellite industry, which is getting a lot more crowded. A big reason for that is the reusability of rocketry, he said, noting SpaceX made access to space much better due to reusable rockets.

Apple’s iPhone 14 deal with Globalstar, Lynk Global, AST SpaceMobile and SpaceX’s collaboration with T-Mobile are in various stages of deployment. All of these are positive moves that use satellite systems in ways that are complementary to a terrestrial network, he said.

“The way we see it is we enable wireless networks,” he said, adding that it’s SES’s vision to help deploy 5G networks just about anywhere. That’s part of the reason it backed efforts to make sure satellite was part of the 3GPP process, with satellite connectivity addressed in Release 17.