Intelsat CTO: Taking 5G to space (and back)

Bruno Fromont, CTO of Intelsat, is helping one of the world's storied satellite providers evolve to be more interoperable with carrier 5G networks and more software-defined as a technology company. In a podcast interview, Fromont said that people want something simple to use and "they don't want to worry about how they're going to use the bandwidth."

The needs of the end-user, he said, will always include instant communications, and that requires network operators of all kinds of work harder to hide the complexities of their technologies and the layers of bureaucracy in their business models.

Fromont said that both 5G providers and satellite companies can benefit from lowering the cost of connectivity by greater interoperability between companies and networks. He discussed the work that's happening in the 3GPP standards organization, which is adding non-terrestrial networks (NTN) directly into the 5G standard. NTN capability is part of the 3GPP's Release 17 package of specification.

Like many in the satellite industry, Fromont said that he sees Elon Musk's SpaceX upstart as "frenemies," both a competitor to Intelsat's geostationary satellite network but also a complementary partner when it needs SpaceX's launch capabilities or its LEO (low-Earth orbit) network to help a customer reach people or assets.

For Fromont, the future is about connecting people quickly – and that requires a network evolution and unprecedented interoperability. "The ability to provide services very quickly to customers and adapt to the demand using software is very, very exciting," he said.

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Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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