SES expanded a partnership with Microsoft to cover creation of fully-virtualised satellite ground stations, seeking to bolster customer offerings with a cloud-native service delivery architecture.

The Satellite Communications Virtualisation Programme aims to create a network of companies providing software-defined radios, customer edge terminals, virtual network functions (VNF) and edge cloud services.

Microsoft plans to begin seeking companies to join the programme in Q4.

The companies claimed the terrestrial element of satellite communications will benefit from using standardised and non-proprietary hardware, enabling remote updates for equipment which is typically located in hard-to-reach places.

SES and Microsoft stated the virtualised ground systems could also serve as an industry blueprint to better align cloud and satellite network architectures.

The VNF and edge cloud applications can be used to address evolving customer needs at a faster rate while the virtualised environment will enable new services such as network slicing, SES stated.

Steve Kitay, senior director Azure Space at Microsoft, said satellites are a “key enabler” in providing its cloud services to customers.

John-Paul Hemingway, chief strategy and product officer at SES, noted terrestrial mobile networks have employed “virtualisation and cloud-native” architectures for several years “to maximise flexibilty”.