The role of satellite in mobile backhaul
Project experience | Strategy
Intelsat, the leading provider of fixed satellite services worldwide, wanted an analysis of the role that satellite can play in delivering mobile backhaul solutions in Africa to help it forecast the amount of capacity required for this application and promote its solutions more effectively to mobile operators in the region.
We undertook market research on technologies that compete with satellite (primarily self-provided microwave backhaul), and went on to build three numerical models: one to forecast the demand for mobile backhaul in five representative countries in the region, another to compare the total cost of ownership for satellite and microwave backhaul solutions and a third model to estimate the likely future demand for mobile backhaul via satellite based on the outputs of the first two models.
In the course of our modelling work we developed innovative techniques to identify mobile 'lily-pads' (geographical areas where with no mobile coverage today, but which could be economically served in the future) and estimate how far each lily-pad is from nearest area of contiguous mobile coverage, and thus how much additional backhaul needs to be built in order to serve it.
We then summarised the opportunities and risks for Intelsat and made recommendations for further analysis.
On the basis of our analysis we presented quantitative results for the five countries covered by our modelling, identified the opportunities and risks for Intelsat and made recommendations for further analysis.
One key conclusion was that there are many communities in Africa that have sizeable populations but are isolated from their closest neighbour and that such communities can be served most cost-effectively using a hybrid approach in which several base stations are connected locally with microwave, then the cluster is backhauled via satellite to the operator's core network.
We expanded on the rationale for this approach in a joint Intelsat-Analysys Mason white paper which is available on the Intelsat website.
Analysys Mason has worked with all three of the world's largest fixed satellite operators and a number of regional players, as well as their service providers and investors. As well as being highly experience in satellite–related work, the project team has also worked extensively with mobile operators in Africa and thus we were able to deliver valuable insights into the motivations and concerns of Intelsat's target customers.