Now is the time for Satellite Internet companies to put their PR plans into orbit
Over the past year, the development of non-terrestrial networks (NTNs) – also referred to as ‘satellite internet networks’ or ‘satcomms’ – has been one of the hottest topics in telecoms. NTNs are being developed to fill in connectivity not-spots, provide connectivity to emergency services and in some cases, offer a primary broadband source to end users.
There has not been a shortage of news and partnerships announced in this space over the past six months, for example:
- Last November, Apple announced a partnership with Globalstar to offer SOS emergency satellite services in the iPhone 14.
- In January, Qualcomm announced a partnership with Iridium to deliver emergency services and messaging, via its Snapdragon Satellite modem which can be used in Android devices.
- In February, Samsung announced that it is developing 5G NTN modem technology to be used in its handset.
This is only a snapshot of the major partnerships and announcements in this space. A search of media articles that contain ‘5G NTN’ and/or ‘5G satellite’, shows that there has been a 72% uplift in articles over the past six months, versus the preceding six months. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity when it comes to PR and marketing for companies in this space. There is clearly an appetite from the media for stories, but there’s also a lot of noise and hype that brands need to compete with to cut through.
A fragmented industry
During a Telecoms.com podcast, the hosts Iain Morris of Light Reading, and Scott Bicheno of Telecoms.com, were discussing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Satellite announcement and other industry developments. They commented that the industry seems very fragmented, due to the vast number of competing companies and partnerships. They also questioned how the economics will stack up for satellite services that are providing emergency services as a backup to primary connectivity. Iain said, “I need to get my head around the satellite thing in 2023; I don’t understand it at all.”
More clarity and education on NTNs is needed and this is something that The Technology Partnership (TTP), a consultancy that is working in the NTN space, is providing. How is TTP getting those messages out to the industry? By partnering with Babel.
In a quote in response to the Qualcomm Iridium partnership (picked up broadly by media in the telecoms sector), Peter Kibutu, Advanced Technology Lead, NTNs at TTP, suggests that partnerships such as this are just a stepping stone before we see networks developed based on industry standards:
“Satellite connectivity available today is constrained by individual satellite networks and the proprietary technology and protocols upon which they were built. This means handset manufacturers are tied to the satellite provider they partner with. The industry is now concurrently developing 5G NTNs as defined by 3GPP Release 17. These networks will be able to provide open access to this technology and will enable new use cases that go further beyond emergency communications.”
In Release 17, 3GPP has defined the Regenerative model for 5G NTNs, which is based on the principles of OpenRAN. It allows the remote unit (RU) and distributed unit (DU) to be located on the satellite, with the centralised unit (CU) located within the terrestrial network. TTP believes that this will become the predominant model for how satellite networks will be built, enabling networks to be densified and offer greater coverage and performance that can support use cases beyond emergency services. It could also open the door to the OpenRAN players – Mavenir, Altiostar, Parallel Wireless, etc. – to play a starring role in 5G NTNs.
Find a company that can help tell your story
As the industry moves towards standardization, NTNs will improve in performance, we could see cross-compatibility between networks, and they will move beyond supporting low-bandwidth connectivity and basic internet applications. This is the time for companies to start educating the market, including media and analysts, on the benefits of NTNs and how they will be built.
Traditional telecom operators, satellite companies, handset manufacturers and network equipment providers (both the traditional vendors and alternative vendors) are all vying for business in the NTN space. They will need a PR agency that can help define their roles in the industry and create unique perspectives on how the industry will unravel.
Alongside, TTP, Babel has also been working with VIAVI to create messaging on NTNs; with BICS to promote its work with Lynk, and with Ciena on the role NTNs will play alongside submarine cables. Not many agencies can already claim to be experts in 5G NTNs, but it’s an area that Babel has had the opportunity to rapidly develop over the past couple of years. If you’d like to find out more, don’t hesitate to get in touch.