Boeing brings 5G and terrestrial tech to MEO satellites

While 5G is a relatively nascent technology, it's already playing an important role in the satellite space race. Ryan Reid, president of Boeing Commercial Satellite Systems, International, recently joined the Light Reading podcast to explain how terrestrial telecom technologies are being utilized in the new O3b mPower satellites, which Boeing is manufacturing in partnership with satellite operator SES.

SES plans to launch several medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites in mid-December and another group in Q1 of 2023.

"With O3b mPower, we've done really the same kind of approach [to smartphone development] by taking silicon chips – devices that were designed for terrestrial 5G applications – and adapting those technologies to be used in space, to give us the same kind of flexibility, scale and capacity that you can get in terrestrial devices," explained Reid.

He also discussed why it's important to include software-defined technology in the O3b mPower satellites.

"I would say the software-defined aspect of it isn't so much about reducing the hardware; it's really about increasing the capability," said Reid. "... It's more than just, can [the satellite] allocate power and bandwidth to different geographic regions? It's really about how well that can happen."

You can download a lightly edited transcript of the podcast here.

Here are a few topics we covered:

  • Process of making satellites software-defined (00:14)
  • Technological advancements for O3b mPower satellites (02:23)
  • Advantages of deploying MEO versus LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellites (03:49)
  • Applying terrestrial service provider technology such as 5G to satellites (04:42)
  • Testing process for preparing satellites to be launched into space (05:56)
  • Additional technological advancements in the O3b mPower satellites (07:44)
  • Delivering connectivity to underserved areas and regions such as Africa (09:35)

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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