Friday, June 2, 2017

Big plans for next gen satellite constellations – Part 1

One thing about the space industry that is a certainty, people like to think big. Just as the mobile networking industry is wrapping up the big 4G LTE network rollouts across the six inhabited continents, while setting its sights on much denser 5G infrastructure, the satellite industry is setting the stage for new generation of broadband satellite constellations. While some see a growing saturation of mobile coverage, augmented by FTTH, xDSL and cable modem fixed line services, the satellite proponents point out that there are billions of people in the developing countries without dependable Internet access.

An FCC study recently found that more than 39% of Americans living in rural areas lack access to advanced telecommunications capability, as compared to 4% of Americans living in urban areas, and approximately 41% of Americans living on Tribal lands lacking access to advanced telecommunications capability. For such unserved or underserved markets broadband satellites promise ubiquitous coverage in rural and hard-to-reach places, especially islands without an undersea cable connection. Satellites also offer an 'incremental user advantage' over mobile infrastructure. This means that if there is one user residing outside the network footprint, the mobile or fixed line network would require the deployment of new equipment closer to this user. For satellite, there is no additional cost from adding just one user from its very wide footprint. This series will look at two recently floated broadband satellite proposals: SpaceX and Ligado Networks.

Elon Musk's SpaceX – massive ambition

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is widely known for its Falcon reusable rocket designs and long-term mission to colonise Mars. The Hawthorne, California based company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk. Its first big milestones include launching and recovering its Dragon spacecraft in 2010 and becoming the first private company to successfully send a spacecraft to the International Space Station in 2012. It currently has about 6,000 employees; investors include Google, Fidelity, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Founders Fund, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn. SpaceX believes its reusable launch system is the magic that will significantly bring down the cost of getting into space. Beginning in 2017, SpaceX has entered a schedule of launches on behalf of commercial customers and its NASA contract to transport goods and soon astronauts to the International Space Station.

The SpaceX LEO plans

Earlier this month, Patricia Cooper, VP, Satellite Government Affairs for SpaceX, unveiled an ambitious plan for low-earth orbit satellites during testimony in front of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science & Technology. Her testimony centred on a new generation of U.S.-based LEO satellites. The advantage of LEO positioning is that the satellite can deliver much lower latency versus satellites parked in a geostationary orbit at distances of 22,000 miles. However, large constellations of LEO satellites are needed to maintain continuous coverage.

SpaceX follows a vertically-integrated approach from design, development, production, launch and operations. The company says it is already the world's largest launch services provider, measured by missions under contract. Its upcoming launch manifest current has 70 mission bookings. As of May 16th, the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle has successfully launched 33 times. SpaceX plans to leverage technology advances like dynamic beam forming and phased array antennas in space and on the ground, as well as optical inter-satellite links to establish a 'mesh network' in space through which the satellites will communicate with each other.

First SpaceX design points:

•   Initially, the SpaceX system will consist of 4,425 satellites operating in 83 orbital planes (at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km).

•   The system will require associated ground control facilities, gateway earth stations, and end user earth stations.

•   The system will use Ka- and Ku-Band spectrum.

•   Target customers include residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users worldwide.

SpaceX has separately filed for authority to operate in the V-Band, where the company has proposed an additional constellation of 7,500 satellites operating even closer to Earth. To implement the system, SpaceX will utilise the availability of significantly more powerful computing and software capabilities, which will enable SpaceX to allocate broadband resources in real time, placing capacity where it is most needed and directing energy away from areas where it might cause interference to other systems, either in space or on the ground.

In terms of CPE, SpaceX is developing a relatively small flat panel roughly the size of a laptop. It will use similar phased array technologies to allow for highly directive, steered antenna beams that track the system's LEO satellites. In space, the satellites will communicate with each other using optical inter-satellite links, in effect creating a mesh network overhead that will enable seamless network management and continuity of service.

Space X is seeking regulatory clearance to expand the umbrella coverage of the LEO constellation with the more intensive coverage from the VLEO constellation. The company anticipates launching its first prototype satellites by the end on the year. Operation launch is anticipated in 2019 and the company hopes that the remaining satellites will be launched in phases through 2024, when the system will reach full capacity with the Ka- and Ku-band satellites. Naturally, SpaceX intends to use its own Falcon 9 rocket, leveraging significant launch cost savings afforded by the first stage reusability now demonstrated with the vehicle.

At this stage in the project, it looks as though SpaceX is planning to design, launch and operate the broadband satellite constellation on a global basis, with the first prototype launch expected in 2018. So far, it has apparently filed for regulatory permits only in the U.S. Proceeds from the network operations presumably will be used to fund the company's Mars ambitions.

Australia's nbn passes 5m premises, 2.2m customers connected

nbn, responsible for building a national broadband network in Australia, which in April reported it had reached 4.5 million homes passed and 2 million connected customers, has now announced a further significant roll-out milestone with 5 million homes and businesses now able to connect to retail services over the nbn network.

nbn, which is constructing a new and upgraded wholesale broadband network to provide communities across Australia with access to fast broadband from retail service providers, aims to deliver universal high speed access across Australia and a goal of connecting 8 million homes and businesses by 2020.

nbn noted that under its multi-technology mix (MTM) model, FTTN and HFC deployments are driving the increased rollout rate, with the two technologies together now serving around half of the 5 million premises that are able to connect to retail services over the nbn network. It noted that the rate of nbn network deployment is currently averaging 250,000 premises made serviceable each month in the year to date.

The company forecasts that the roll-out pace will increase further over the three months from April to June, during which period it expects to make a further one million premises serviceable as it approaches the target for financial year 2017 of 5.4 million premises ready for service (RFS). Retail services on the nbn network are currently available to nearly one in two Australians. The network is scheduled to be three quarters completed by mid-2018 and complete by 2020.

nbn stated that customer activations are also increasing, with 2.2 million premises now using retail services over the nbn network, with approximately 130,000 new premises signing up with retail service providers each month.


Reported by state, nbn noted that RFS premises are as follows: New South Wales – 1,572,676; Queensland – 1,041,981; Victoria – 1,105,618; Tasmania – 235,452; South Australia – 410,191; Western Australia – 513,300; Northern Territory – 88,645; and Australian Capital Territory – 67,209.

Poland's PSNC deploys ADVA FSP 3000 CloudConnect for 400G connectivity

ADVA Optical Networking announced that the Poland's Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Center (PSNC) has deployed its FSP 3000 CloudConnect platform with QuadFlex 400 Gbit/s technology into the PIONIER network, a regional R&E network that links high-performance computing centres in five cities across Poland, as well as providing onward connectivity to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.

The open ADVA data centre interconnect (DCI) solution deployed by PSNC is transmitting large data loads utilising the 16QAM modulation format. The 96-channel network, which connects supercomputing centres in Poznań and Warsaw, is designed to remove data capacity restrictions and enable researchers to share large data sets. The new solution will help Poland's R&E community to collaborate, share their findings and more reliably access data-intensive applications.

Based on the ADVA FSP 3000 CloudConnect platform, the new infrastructure incorporates the vendor's QuadFlex technology to enable transport at 400 Gbit/s over 385 km reach without the need for signal regeneration. The system is configured with two 200 Gbit/s wavelengths operating at 16QAM within an optical super-channel. ADVA noted that the new high-capacity link forms a key section of the PIONIER network operated domestically by PSNC.

Designed to provide scalability and bandwidth optimisation, the FSP 3000 CloudConnect platform offers energy efficiency in a compact footprint, and is claimed to require less rack space than competing solutions.



  • Earlier this year, ADVA announced that PSNC had deployed the FSP 3000 equipped with 100 Gbit/s core technology into its PIONIER network. The 96-channel 100 Gbit/s coherent long-haul solution provided by ADVA offers reach of over 3,466 km without signal regeneration and provides redundant GMPLS-based networking between supercomputing centres in the cities of Poznań, Gdansk, Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw.

Henan Unicom selects Huawei all-optical for smart hotels

Huawei announced that it is partnering with Henan Unicom, the Henan branch of China Unicom, to deploy a new smart hotel solution based on all-optical access that is designed to promote the digital transformation for the hotel industry.

Huawei noted that in recent years, Henan province's rapid economic growth has led to the development of local tourism, and as a result the number of hotels in the city has increased substantially. As part of efforts to enhance services for visitors, Henan Unicom plans to provide intelligent information services for middle- and high-end hotels in the city.

To address the requirements of the hotel sector, Huawei has developed its smart hotel solution based on all-optical access for Henan Unicom. The solution integrates the high-capacity converged optical line terminal (OLT), MA5800, fibre routed inside buildings and converged smart gateways. The company noted that a MA5800-based GPON network is able to provide coverage for 128 rooms over a single fibre. The solution supports access at rates up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, as well as providing control of lights and appliances via external intelligent devices.

The Huawei solution delivers exclusive WiFi access for each hotel room, eliminating the effects of poor WiFi coverage and bandwidth sharing. The solution features converged smart gateways that support both wired broadband and wireless WiFi access in one box, providing hotel occupants with IPTV access and HD video and 4K video on demand services.

The Huawei solution also supports centralised operation and maintenance (O&M) via NMS, thereby removing the need for skilled IT support and reducing management costs. In addition, the smart hotel solution is designed to allow the evolution to next-generation PON access technologies.



  • In April, Nokia announced a live trial in China Unicom's commercial network in Shandong using the Nokia Virtualized Services Router (VSR) and involving more than 5,000 residential subscribers, designed to enable China Unicom to accelerate the delivery of broadband utilising a flexible network based on virtualised network functions (VNFs).
  • In 2016, Nokia announced an expanded partnership with China Unicom for the supply of its high-capacity core router, the 7950 Extensible Routing System (XRS). At the time Nokia stated that China Unicom had initially deployed the 7950 XRS into metro networks in Beijing, Shandong, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Inner Mongolia and Qinghai, and under the expanded agreement would deploy it in Heilongjiang, Henan, Zhejiang and Hunan to enhance fixed and mobile broadband services.

Germany's NetCologne and ZTE demo G.fast@212 MHz

ZTE and NetCologne, a regional network operator in the great Cologne-Bonn area of Germany and a subsidiary of utility company GEW Köln, which in March announced with ZTE the launch of the pilot phase of a G.fast roll-out, have jointly announced the G.fast@212 MHz profile ultra-broadband solution at the ANGACOM broadband exhibition in Cologne.

In what the companies claim is the first demonstration of G.fast@212 MHz, the technology is being tested over a live network. As part of the demonstration ZTE and NetCologne showcased the access rate profile of G.fast@212 MHz reaching more than 1.8 Gbit/s, with a download rate 1.6 Gbit/s and upload rate of around 200 Mbit/s. ZTE's G.fast solution is designed to enable NetCologne's fibre-to-the-building (FttB) access network to support gigabit bandwidth.
NetCologne stated that it is committed to providing the city of Cologne and surrounding regions with reliable, advanced telecom services, and has cited a target of reaching 260,000 homes. The company operates four data centres and offers a service portfolio that includes voice and data services and distribution of TV services for both residential and business users, as well as business ICT solutions.



  • NetCologne and ZTE signed the agreement defining their strategic partnership in February of this year. Under the terms of the agreement, ZTE will provide NetCologne with advanced network equipment including G.fast distribution point units (DPUs) and terminals.
  • ZTE's multi-port G.fast DPU supports G.fast@212 MHz and flexible uplink selection among PON/point-to-point/DSL (PON/P2P/DSL) technologies. The solution also features multiple power supply options, allowing it to self-adapt for a range of deployment scenarios.
  • Through the agreement, ZTE will help NetCologne to upgrade its existing VDSL network to a G.fast network. This solution will enable NetCologne to cost-effectively provide access at rates approaching 2 Gbit/s while utilising the existing copper infrastructure, without the need for fibre reconstruction in the residential network.

City of Celina in Texas to require fibre in new developments

The city of Celina in Texas announced that, following a unanimous decision by the city council to approve the Easement Ordinance amendment at the recent May city council meeting, developers will be required to install optical fibre lines and conduits in all new developments within the boundaries of the city.

The city of Celina, located approximately 40 miles from Dallas, stated that, through the Celina Economic Development Corporation (EDC), it is designing and shortly plans to begin the construction of an 86-mile fibre backhaul network across the city. In addition, through developer and building ordinances and other public-private partnerships, Celina is aiming to build a fibre network to serve a further 64 sq miles across the city to connect all residential, business and municipal rooftops to this fibre backbone.

The city noted that the ordinance that has been passed states that: '…a fibre optic network in the city of Celina is a fundamental aspect of the infrastructure required to educate, create jobs, promote public safety, improve citizens' standards of living and deliver essential services'.

The planned open access network for Celina is intended to enable faster communication and Internet speeds for consumers and businesses and to establish the first Gigabit City in the state of Texas. Celina's Gigabit City is specifically committed to providing connectivity with a minimum speed of 1 Gbit/s symmertical to all residential and business premises across the city.

Describing the project, Scott Stawski, secretary and board member of the Celina EDC, said, "(The network) is approximately only 8% built out, but there is a clear line of sight to being 100% built out in 20 years… because the city is building the gigabit infrastructure now, it will become more attractive to potential new businesses and companies looking to establish in a community with the fastest connectivity in the state of Texas".


See also