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SES Sees its First O3b mPOWER Satellites Launch With SpaceX

By | December 16, 2022
The first SES O3b mPOWER satellites take off in a SpaceX launch on Dec. 16. Photo: SES

The first SES O3b mPOWER satellites take off in a SpaceX launch on Dec. 16. Photo: SES

SES celebrated the start of a new era for the company on Friday evening, with the launch of its first O3b mPOWER satellites. The Boeing-built satellites will bring orders of magnitude more capacity to the market than its predecessor, O3b. 

SpaceX launched the first two satellites of the constellation on Dec. 16 at 5:48 p.m. from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Stage separation occurred a little over 2 minutes into the mission. The first satellite was set to deploy 1 hour and 53 minutes into the mission, and the second satellite shortly after, at 2 hours into the mission. 

These satellites will reach their orbital position in Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) in April, when SES will begin testing. This launch will be followed by two more launches in the first quarter of next year, and the constellation will begin service in the third quarter of 2023. 

O3b mPOWER is a massive increase in capacity from the first O3b constellation. While the first O3b constellation has 10 beams per satellite, the new software-defined constellation has 5,000 beams per satellite. These beams can each scale capacity from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps through a single link to a single location. Boeing and SES also designed the constellation as an extension of cloud services, and SES has extensive partnerships with Microsoft.

“Much more than just another launch, today marks the next milestone of our MEO journey. Since starting this journey, we have gone on to positively impact millions around the world. Today, with our second-generation O3b mPOWER, we are bringing game-changing technology that delivers a unique combination of multiple gigabits per second of throughput at any location, guaranteed reliability and service flexibility that is a first in the industry,” said Steve Collar, CEO of SES. “Whether we are enabling governments to carry out critical missions securely, cruise operators to provide high-speed broadband access to passengers at all times, or mobile network operators to deploy 4G/5G networks in underconnected areas or restore communications networks in down time, O3b mPOWER is the satellite system of choice for applications where performance matters most.”

Collar spoke about the benefits of the technology and what it will do for customers in a press conference on Friday. 

“One of the big revolutions with O3b MPOWER is that we can have an unlimited number of local gateways. For MNOs that want to keep mobile data local, you’re going to have a gateway locally in place, and an MMO can effectively operate their own networks,” Collar said. “If you take that idea across to governments, and you think about secure communications and sovereign communications, the fact that O3b mPOWER is essentially open architecture means that our customers can take control over their own data, take control over their own networks, which is a really important feature of what we built.” 

Collar said that over time, he expects governments to make up 50% of O3b MPOWER customers. Not just the U.S. government, but governments around the world. SES has revamped its U.S. defense business with the acquisition of Leonardo DRS and rebranding its defense segment to SES Space & Defense

Telcos and MNOs are a target market for O3b mPOWER for use cases like fiber backup and backhaul. Vodafone has been an O3b customer in the Cook Islands since the beginning, and Phillip Henderson, CEO of Vodafone Cook Islands spoke about how the 15-island nation has changed during 10 years with O3b. 

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve grown up with O3b. Probably the most significant change in the last 10 years is in 2020, islands achieved developed nation status. You don’t achieve that on the back of poor telecommunications infrastructure or service,” Henderson said. 

Vodafone Cook Islands recently signed a four-year deal for mPOWER and plans to connect every public service in the country with the government network. Henderson spoke about the promise of mPOWER. “Our ability to drop connectivity on each of those islands and not over water, and our ability to manage the service delivery that we deliver to these islands. It means that we’ve backhaul 4G data, we deliver IPTV and IoT is going to be spread out across the country. That capability is all delivered over the service of mPOWER. I don’t think there’s any other satellite provider that can do that,” he said. 

Cruise is another major market. Princess Cruises is a longtime customer of SES, and Princess President John Padgett said Friday that mPOWER will take cruise connectivity to the next level and make 1 GB of capacity the standard. 

With mPOWER, “Now we have that high-performance connectivity that is truly global without, switching between GEO and MEO and spots and differentials and performance. We have global reliability with mPOWER. Low latency, high performance — true enterprise class,” Padgett said Friday. 

Other key customers who have signed up for O3b mPOWER include Marlink, Jio Platforms, Orange, and Claro Brasil.