Orange looks to the skies to boost connectivity

Orange has announced a deal with Eutelsat to act as one of two distribution partners on the satellite operator’s Konnect VHTS asset, expected to be operational in 2021.

Satellite is an area of the communications world which is becoming increasingly popular for telcos in regions where delivering connectivity through traditional infrastructure is more expensive, such as remote or rural communities. Orange has confirmed it will use the partnership to address the fixed broadband market in European countries where it has a retail presence.

“Satellite is one of the technologies that contribute to building tomorrow’s inclusive digital society, especially for delivering broadband connectivity in rural areas where it is sometimes challenging to set up traditional broadband networks,” said Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange. With this agreement, we will enhance our portfolio of very high speed internet solutions delivered by satellite, offering all our customers across Europe digital services of premium quality.”

While Orange has been preaching about its work in laying fibre throughout France and Spain, the partnership with Eutelsat could provide an alternative means of broadband delivery in places such as Moldova, Romania and Poland where the rollout has not been as extensive. It certainly would be a more cost-effective way to deliver the convergence promise. It might also work as a compromise in the fibre-rich markets for those awkward farmers who are hard to reach.

The satellite itself will have a Ka-band capacity of 500 Gbps and will include what Eutelsat describes as the most powerful on-board digital processor ever put in orbit. This asset also replaces the joint investment project with ViaSat in a ViaSat 3 satellite for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, which caught many by surprise. The partnership with ViaSat had been proving a successful one to date, the ViaSat-2 satellite launched last summer, and ViaSat 3 is due to have double the capacity of Konnect VHTS. Konnect VHTS does have a greater concentration of coverage over Europe however.

While satellites are an area of the telco space which has been more focused on regions like Africa to date, telcos elsewhere are beginning to make more noise. Aside from this agreement, Vodafone also entered into a partnership in 2016 with Intelsat for roaming services, while SoftBank agreed to invest $1 billion in US satellite firm OneWeb.

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