CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA: SpaceX successfully launched two of SES’ second-generation medium Earth orbit satellites (MEO) that will increase the beams from ten per bird to more than 5,000 in an effort to provide global connectivity across numerous verticals.

The two Boeing-built O3b mPOWER MEO satellites blasted-off 16 December from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The satellites were in development for the past five years after the first generation launched in 2013.

SES CEO Steve Collar stated in a press briefing the birds would be commercially operational in Q3 2023 after achieving their 8,000 kilometres MEO orbits.

The new satellites will enable roundtrip latency of less than 150 milliseconds to deliver global speeds from 10Mb/s to gigabits to government agencies, energy companies, cruise lines, enterprises, mobile operators, ships and planes.

John-Paul Hemingway, chief strategy and product officer for SES, told Mobile World Live that six of the birds could cover all of Earth, but the company plans to deploy a total of 11 in its satellite constellation.

“We’re building a big global telco wholesale edge,” he stated.

The satellites connect to SES’ ground stations, some of which are located in Microsoft Azure data centres to enable low latency at the edge for mobile operators.

SES also has a multi-cloud strategy in place with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Oracle, but its primary partner is Azure.

“We built a whole bunch of our gateways colocated with Azure data centres, so our customers are directly connected back to Azure the minute they use mPOWER,” Collar stated. “They’re coming back to one of our gateways and they have direct access to Azure services.”

Mobile operators will have access to a range of virtual network functions on Azure and AWS marketplaces when the satellites are live.

The satellite provider will also use the mPOWER birds to connect to the network cloud at the edge to deliver compute and storage.

Hemingway outlined several primary use cases for operators that will be empowered by the new satellite cluster including virtual 5G instances.

“We’ve partnered with a telco and a government agency to deploy a virtual 5G instance with our partners at Microsoft,” Hemingway said. “If 5G is down they can turn up a 5G bubble in a vehicle with a satellite connected to a 5G instance.”

The birds could also be used to provide private 5G services in remote locations such as oil rigs, industrial mines or in industrial IoT.

“It works on anything that needs an intense computing application running at the edge, but also connected to the cloud,” Hemingway noted. “Bigger data access is something that’s going to be a super sweet spot for mPOWER.”

The list of use cases for operators also includes remote cell towers or emergency restoration cell towers.

“It’s for anything that flies, floats, or is in a hard-to-reach location,” Hemingway stated. “They can take that cloud application and deliver it to the edge straight over a high-performance link. That’s game changing.”