14/07/202110 Minutes

Connectivity Demands: Satellite & the Middle East

Following on from the ‘Connecting Africa: Overcoming Barriers Via Satellite Roundtable‘ of 16 September 2021, ‘Connectivity Demands: Satellite & the Middle East’ brought a new region into fine microscopic focus. Again moderated by David Meltzer of GVF, this Middle East-centric dialogue brought together SES Networks’, General Manager for Middle East & Central Asia; Saudi Net Link’s Chief Technology Officer; and, ST Engineering iDirect’s Country Manager for Saudi Arabia, for a vibrant discussion which benefitted from a collective professional experience of the Middle East’s communications markets amounting to several decades.

With more than 200 people registered from over 60 countries, the Roundtable stimulated a considerable volume of ‘live’ questioning from the audience, in addition to the moderator-led dialogue which covered questions referencing a wide range of topics, including:

  • Telcos and MNOs need access to, analysis and management of, vast volumes of data. What is driving this and are there certain drivers which are of particular significance in the Middle East region?
  • Telcos and MNOs often face challenges impacting their drive to expand their networks. Expansion which is dependent upon fibre or microwave line of sight infrastructure can have roll-out problems. What issues do Middle East telcos and MNOs face, and where in their network growth planning strategies does, and will, satellite play a part?
  • A cellular/mobile/satellite backhaul ecosystem has been vitally important for many years. As we move to 5G we hear more and more about the communications “network of networks”. In the Middle East region what has been the historical significance of the contribution of satellite backhaul, what is the situation now and how is it anticipated to evolve?
  • Middle East MNOs serve a region that is rapidly becoming increasingly rich in the deployment of IoT devices. The IoT (including Industrial IoT) market is forecast to become one of satellite’s major growth markets. How is this expected to pan out across the Middle East and how will it draw more demand for satellite services throughout the region?

The answers to these and other questions provided a stimulating insight into the specifics of the region’s particular market needs, with questions from the audience adding the opportunity for more and even deeper insights.

If you missed this panel’s analysis of the Middle East’s various data connectivity barriers and its perspectives on cost-effective solutions over satellite, you haven’t completely missed out. In addition, you will see below on this page our panellists’ written answers to the many audience questions we just didn’t have time for when live.

As with the entire GVF-SEG series of Webinars, Roundtables, and Spotlight events, the recording is available on-demand and free-of-charge by clicking the play button below. Enjoy the video!

Q & A continued….

The following question was posed through the chat function during the panel but we ran out of time to respond in the live programme. Thank you to our audience for taking an active part by asking questions, and to our panellists for their time to answer them after the webinar ended… (Please note more questions and answers may appear here as we receive them from the panellists)


1. How are the handling of TCP connections (established sessions) handled when the customer is switching between the satellites on MEO or LEO (and from MEO to GEO) Is the established connection dropped and so customer experience “drop” during switching or there is some technique used?

Hamid Nawaz (SES): For MEO it is a “make before break”. Since 2014, MEO terminals have grown to more than 250 with un-interrupted voice and data services.

Abdulaziz Aldhaher (ST Engineering iDirect): In a full make-before-break scenario, the TCP sessions are maintained, the customer does not experience a drop in the connection.


2. Is there a deployed solution for voice communication applications for Air traffic control as a standby means to VHF & HF communications in the Middle East?

Hamid Nawaz (SES): We have more than 7 Geostationary satellites covering Middle East. One of our Go to Market channels is through Service providers. These customers of ours have deployed a number of SES provided satellite bandwidth based solutions for Air Traffic Control based on the satellite bandwidth on SES satellites.

Abdulaziz Aldhaher (ST Engineering iDirect): This should be a question for SESST Engineering iDirect deploys VSAT and SCPC solutions which can be used for Air Traffic control. However, any Air Traffic control functionality will be handled by specific VHF/voice routers/multiplexer.


3. Second part of the question what is the possibility to integrate 5G LTE broadband trunking applications while deviating from traditional backhaul framework? Can we expect to liberalize link budget of space segment with the slicing of the spectrum?

Hamid Nawaz (SES): We have designed and implemented and integrated 2G, 3G, 4G LTE backhaul networks both on GEO and MEO for nearly all the major MNOs around the globe. We have successfully conducted standalone 5G trial with a Tier-1 MNO on MEO and our solution is part of 5G expansion plan of that MNO. Similarly, we have a very strong trunking product in MEO and the throughput of this product is expected to grow manifolds with mPOWER.

Abdulaziz Aldhaher (ST Engineering iDirect): This should be a question for SES or country specific regulators (spectrum slicing). ST Engineering iDirect solutions can support 5G LTE broadband applications as well as trunking services.


4. Third part of the question, what are the challenges for traditional carrier grade SATCOM when compared to highly growing Micro and Pico satellite domains (ie. Starlink)?

Hamid Nawaz (SES): The carrier grade Satcom must meet MNO’s KPIs primarily reliability and performance. The network should be scalable and the challenging business case must get closed.

  • Telcos and MNOs are facing increasing challenge with growth in data traffic. CapEx challenge to expand network and also to upgrade to 4G & 5G in future while the revenue is not growing proportionally to data traffic growth
  • Telcos/MNOs seek a reliable partner in extending their network rather than some one who can only provide satellite capacity
  • We see increase in demand for end to end managed services
  • Other trends that we are seeing are:
    – Tower operations outsourcing
    – Active and passive network sharing
    – New business models for backhaul: Volume based billing, revenue sharing, OpEX based models

O3b mPOWER is well positioned to meet all of these requirements along with being able to support increasing throughput demand driven by 4G/5G adoption. Essentially, lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) solutions.

Abdulaziz Aldhaher (ST Engineering iDirect): The ST Engineering iDirect solution are fully carrier grade, guaranteeing very high QoS which is extremely important for MNOs. This is not necessarily the case for Micro and Pico satellites, although they should likely get to that level at some point.


5.  Good Informative discussions, what’s your view on Direct to Device connectivity via MNO offerings?
Abdulaziz Aldhaher (ST Engineering iDirect): ST Engineering is engaged in the 3GPP standards and considers to leverage the 5G NR/IoT NR waveforms in suitable configurations. The efficiency of these waveforms is currently being assessed within ETSI. The direct to device connectivity could be limited to low voice or text applications in the beginning, given the device antenna form factor and the power budget required to provide higher throughput in that set up.