The next generation of Intelsat‘s network gained two more satellites this week. The company announced plans to deploy Intelsat 41 (IS-41) and Intelsat 44 (IS-44) in geosynchronous orbit by 2025, expanding coverage, capacity, and – most importantly – flexibility of the company’s network across the globe.
With the addition of Intelsat 41 and Intelsat 44, in partnership with Thales Alenia Space, Intelsat will blanket the earth with software-defined satellites, progressing the world’s first global 5G software-defined network, designed to unify the global telecoms ecosystem.– Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat
The new satellites will be built on the Thales Alenia Space software-defined satellite bus. They will join two Airbus constructed software-defined satellites, Intelsat 42 (IS-42) and Intelsat 43 (IS-43), announced January 8, 2021.
The contract enables the continued advancement of Intelsat’s planned global software-defined satellite-based network. In particular, these two satellites aim to deliver high-speed dynamically-allocated connectivity across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Intelsat expects the capacity to support commercial and government mobility services, as well as cellular backhaul.
Aviation connectivity figures strongly in the commercial mobility segment for the company. Increasing capacity and flexibility for coverage in EMEA and Asia should allow Intelsat to better serve its airline customers across the regions, with more bandwidth at lower costs.
The software-defined nature of these satellites also delivers advantages for the in-flight connectivity market. Intelsat can adjust coverage footprints and beam strength (i.e. bandwidth available) as flight corridors evolve or hub markets shift.
The current generation of satellites typically offer fixed or only slightly flexible service beams. This requires operators to pick a coverage pattern years before entry into service and hope the demand shows up as anticipated. An interim generation of satellites added more flexibility to the coverage options, but kept the overall architecture relatively fixed.
With the latest round of software-defined satellites, nearly everything about the coverage map can be adjusted while the satellite is in orbit. A new mega-hub or new airline customer could see the footprint adjusted to bring capacity online where it is needed most, well after the satellite enters orbit.
Commenting on the new contract, Hervé Derrey, CEO of Thales Alenia Space, adds, “Our attractive Space Inspire software-defined solution will contribute to the realization of Intelsat’s global 5G software-defined unified network. We are proud that our advanced satellite technology will play a significant role in Intelsat’s vision to reimagine the global telecoms ecosystem.”
News of the new satellite contract comes as Intelsat finalizes its plans to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It also comes against the background of significantly increased competition in the inflight connectivity market network architectures. Anuvu is pushing forward with its plan for smaller GEO satellites that also deliver more flexible capacity. Other competitors, including OneWeb, continue to push forward with low earth orbit constellations. Both of those expect to be in service well before these satellites launch for Intelsat.
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