Satellite communications: Is ‘Hybrid Network’ a Buzzword?

July 26, 2021

Posted By: Josh Marks, CEO, Anuvu

Hybrid networks are hardly a new idea. In 2008 Via Satellite wrote that “hybrid networks involving IP and satellite technologies are now becoming much more prevalent around the globe.” Since 2008 there have been many significant technology breakthroughs, with fiber, microwave and 4G / LTE integration with multi-band satellite communications to create resilient and scalable networks.

In 2021, it seems the hybrid network has become a buzzword. How does it really benefit mobility markets and ultimately the end user? And is hybrid networking a cost-effective way to build fast, reliable and scalable connections?

At Anuvu, we have a new perspective on delivering connectivity to our mobility customers. One that goes beyond traditional satellite connectivity models trying to be all things to all customers. One that redefines the business of satellite communications and network operations.

A new network view

Over the past decade, we successfully brought global high-speed connectivity to the mobility sector, including planes, ships and connectivity-on-the-move. Our innovations have included end-user optimized inflight connectivity systems for Internet access and entertainment, broadband hybrid networking for cruise ships, and mission-critical network services for industry and government customers.

Looking forward, we know that the service requirements for mobility customers will diverge from traditional geostationary markets such as broadcast television, fixed-site enterprise and residential applications.  Mobility requires pure-play technologies and focused commitment.  

Today, we announce the upcoming launch of our Anuvu Constellation in partnership with Astranis. This constellation will be a key component of our next-generation network. Commencing roll-out in 2023, our network becomes inherently multi-orbit, with the addition of our Constellation of micro-geostationary (MicroGEO HTS) satellites dedicated exclusively to mobility and augmented by low-earth orbit (LEO) systems that add low latency, fast upload speeds, global coverage and multi-terabit scalability. Each technology is relevant to our air, sea and land markets and their passengers and guests. We are focused on the seamless integration of these systems with all of our other assets in order to keep pace with evolving passenger and enterprise requirements, introducing a new way of thinking about the business of satellite connectivity.

Today’s announcement marks the next step of our multi-year development program.  After pioneering modern broadband class connectivity platforms with our customers, we moved to revolutionary network operations platforms and tools, where we were first to deploy SD-WAN data routing and AI-based traffic prioritization in live passenger applications.  With these tools we can blend multiple networks into seamless experiences for users.  We’ve also been adapting our antenna systems for simultaneous operation on both GEO and LEO networks, recognizing that steered antenna designs have unique advantages tracking LEO satellites anywhere in the sky. We’ve completed extensive testing of our antenna system with Telesat’s LEO network. And now, in partnership with Silicon Valley's Astranis, we are vertically integrating with our Constellation of MicroGEO HTS satellites to deliver outstanding performance, coverage, agility and economics today, while complementing our LEO capabilities in the future.

Staying one ‘giant leap’ ahead

Vertical integration of our GEO capacity is a significant leap forward in our overall network strategy beyond the additional focus and commitment for mobility users we will gain with our own custom satellites, but also because we are vertically integrating in a new and exciting way. Satellite technology is evolving quickly, and Astranis’ new satellite design can be built in months, not years. So, instead of taking a billion-dollar bet on one satellite which will take almost a decade to get into operation and locking ourselves into a single band and coverage area for the next decade, we’re launching a series of high-throughput MicroGEO HTS satellites dedicated to specific regions and as always, dedicated for mobility customers.  With these new satellite designs and rapid in-service time, we’ll be agile, launching capacity when it’s needed, where it’s needed, and on the band it’s needed.  While others will be selling large, heavy Powerpoint satellites for years to come, we will be building a factory line of satellites to meet changing market needs like never seen before in our industry. 

In parallel, we are continuing to work with third-party LEO providers that complement our vertically integrated GEO strategy. We recognize that one type of asset in our network doesn’t fit all, and we believe passengers won’t accept the limitations of a GEO-only network. On weekdays, passengers at sea and in the air increasingly focus on remote work, joining video calls and collaborating in the Cloud, where low-latency LEO is the best answer. Yet at night and over the weekends, passengers watch live sporting events, or stream movies, which is often (or in the past has been) most cost-effective on GEO.

The business of satellite communications

We are changing how we look at the business of satellite communications and introducing a new type of ‘hybrid network’. Our focus is on the seamless integration of GEO and LEO, with intelligent data routing based on configurable business parameters, optimized for mobility applications. And as new LEO constellations launch, we’ll be open and ready to collaborate and integrate their capacity into our solutions. 

We all need to adapt to new expectations post-pandemic and our strategy addresses passengers’ need for speed and latency, and enterprise desires for industry-leading economics and future compatibility. Reflecting on our past decade as a network operator and service provider, we designed our network around our mobility customers’ requirements, while preserving flexibility and forward compatibility with tomorrow’s use cases.

Above all, we’ll keep our focus on global coverage, multi-band capability, and value-added services for our mobility customers in the air, at sea and in remote land locations.