The year 2012 and through the second quarter of 2013 saw 3G installations outpace the installed base of 2G and 2.5G wireless backhaul via satellite equipment. The move was led by Mobility Platforms where commercial airlines, passenger vessels and cruise ships deployed such services to support the needs of high-paying customers. Over 13,000 units are now operational with North America, the Atlantic Ocean Region (AOR) and Western Europe leading all regions of the globe, validating NSR’s finding that Mobility Platforms are a developed country proposition. It is worth noting that Asia came in fourth led by installations in what is referred to as “developed Asia.”
The Fixed Land Towers segment saw growth as well on three notable fronts:
- In the HTS camp, iPSTAR’s installed base for Japan’s SoftBank breached 6,000 in-service units, while UQ Communications has installed WiMAX Base Stations in several areas of Japan as a cost-effective method of extending coverage to underserved areas.
- In the MEO-HTS camp, June 2013 saw the successful launch of O3b’s first batch of satellites and a long-term capacity deal with Malaysian telecoms provider Maju Nusa under the auspices of the Ministry of Communications to deploy 3G mobile data services to rural communities aimed at closing the digital divide between rural and urban Malaysia.
- From a regional market front, both developments came from Asia in terms supporting future 3G initiatives.
Over time, it is NSR’s view that Asia will dominate the entire wireless backhaul via satellite market where other regions will come in a distant second in terms of market size and opportunity. Indeed, the move to 3G in proving a business case is taking place in Asia, and it is where next-generation providers are setting their sights in maximizing investment returns. In Mobility Platforms, Asia is expected to outpace North America, the AOR and Western Europe driven by deployments in “developed Asia.” In Fixed Land-based Towers, Asia should once again dominate installations ahead of Sub Saharan Africa and Latin America for deployments both in developing country markets such as Malaysia as well as developed economies like Japan.
The year 2012 can be considered a turning point in the industry where the shift to 3G services has taken hold. iPSTAR has paved the way in terms of proof-of-concept and in the next few years, other programs (notably Intelsat’s EPIC, Inmarsat’s GlobalXpress as well as regional HTS programs) will join the fray and further validate the 3G, even 4G proposition for HTS. O3b with a 2014 service provision date and armed with a large backlog will impact the industry immediately and virtually provision 3G services overnight to the rural communities for countries such as Malaysia.
What was once unthinkable in terms of provisioning 3G services via satellite to low-ARPU level rural customers or reserved only for high-paying customers aboard commercial airlines and cruise ships, has become and will become the norm where the challenge of bridging the digital divide will become less daunting, thanks to the innovation and risk-taking of HTS and MEO-HTS providers.
Information for this article was extracted from NSR’s report Wireless Backhaul via Satellite, 7th Edition.
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