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For years, satellite communication was considered only to be that last mile of communication—a serviceable technology that was a good fit for such applications as cellular backhaul or disaster recovery. This assumption was perhaps a byproduct of limited capacity in the sky and an underlying technology infrastructure that was considered to be less sophisticated in comparison to the global telecom network.

That was then—today is a much different era for satellite communication. And it all started with the launch of high throughput satellites (HTS). This fleet of next-gen satellites deliver dramatic increases in throughput, significantly lower cost of bandwidth, and higher performance functionality.

With each new wave of HTS, experts anticipate capacity to exceed 17 Tbps by 2026, with around 60% of this capacity coming in the form of one, or more, LEO-HTS constellations. GEO-HTS will claim 7 Tbps, with most of this capacity coming on Ka-band GEO-HTS payloads launched in all regions of the globe.

The satellite narrative made another giant leap forward with the launch of low-earth orbit constellations from such high-profile names as SpaceX and OneWeb, among others. These smaller, high-performance satellite constellations operate at roughly 750 miles above the Earth and bring Internet connectivity to underserved areas of the globe.

In all, we’re now talking about upwards of ten-times the throughput of previous satellites. That means operators suddenly find themselves with the need to forge closer ties to telecom providers, service providers, integrators, and all other players in the global network with the infrastructure to move a great deal of capacity. Today, satellite communications powers in-flight connectivity, maritime communications, all aspects of the military, and more.

For satellite service providers, this necessitates the enablement of dynamic and flexible services that can be adjusted on demand across the entire global network. This is certainly the case, as partners across the satellite value chain are introducing advancements such as transparent IP transport, improved network architectures, optimized service fulfillment, and end-point intelligence in order to build a more responsive network.

And as the market builds towards 5G, such technologies as network programmability, function virtualization, and service orchestration play a strong role. As such, satellite service providers are aligning through the adoption of such leading-edge principles as software defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV), service orchestration, evolved packet core (EPC) and more.

The satellite market is evolving rapidly towards an era of higher service enablement, allowing operators to be able to turn on services at a rapid pace. With it comes the expansion of the total addressable market for satellite, and the ability to play a more critical role in the broader telecom ecosystem.