Satellite broadband boost as Intelsat expands fleet, Inmarsat supports IoT

Satellite providers take connectivity to higher orbit as Intelsat continues investment in global 5G software-defined network while Inmarsat supports IoT monitoring for RWE’s hydroelectric power stations in Wales

In the latest examples of satellite companies muscling in on the connectivity arena, operator Intelsat has commissioned Thales Alenia Space to build two software-defined satellites to advance its global fabric of software-defined GEO connectivity as part of its 5G software-defined network, while renewable energy firm RWE is using internet of things (IoT)-over satellite technology provided by Inmarsat at its at its hydroelectric power facilities.

The addition of software-defined satellites from Thales Alenia Space – a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%) – is said to represent an essential advancement in the Intelsat 5G software-defined network, designed to enable greater agility, flexibility and orchestration across edge, satellite and core.

The contract is said to enable the continued advancement of Intelsat’s planned global software-defined satellite-based network, adding high-speed, dynamically allocated connectivity across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia for commercial and government mobility services and cellular backhaul.

The new craft will be based on the Space Inspire product line, allowing telecommunications mission and services reconfiguration, instant in-orbit adjustment to broadband connectivity demand, and what is claimed to be superior video-broadcasting performance while maximising the effective use of satellite resources.

“Intelsat’s standards-based, open-architecture network design facilitates the incorporation of the best technology at any given time, further bolstering network resiliency,” said Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat. “With the addition of Intelsat 41 and Intelsat 44, in partnership with Thales Alenia Space, Intelsat will blanket the earth with software-defined satellites, progressing the world’s first global 5G software-defined network, designed to unify the global telecoms ecosystem.”

The two new craft are scheduled to be in service in 2025 and will join two Airbus-constructed software-defined satellites, Intelsat 42 (IS-42) and 43 (IS-43), announced just over a year ago.

Meanwhile, renewable energy firm RWE has confirmed that it is using IoT-over satellite technology provided by Inmarsat and specialist provider Ground Control at its hydroelectric power facilities in the mountainous region of Snowdonia national park in north-west Wales (pictured above). Even though Snowdonia’s significant rainfall makes it ideal for harnessing water to generate electricity, the weather is unpredictable and in remote locations can be completely different from the conditions at RWE’s operations centre in Dolgarrog.

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RWE needed precise, up-to-date information and insight on rainfall and water levels without needing to send staff out to collect measurements. It decided to install automated IoT-connected hydrology stations to monitor water levels and weather conditions constantly, enabling the company to prevent water wastage and maximise the amount of energy it generates, while safeguarding staff and the surrounding landscape and infrastructure.

However, Snowdonia lacks reliable terrestrial communications links to transmit the data, plus connections to the energy grid to power the equipment.

Having accurate, near-real-time information on water levels and flow rates enables RWE to take the right decisions to maximise electricity production, reduce water waste and minimise the threat of damage through overspill to the landscape and its own infrastructure, while also keeping staff safe and secure.

To solve this challenge, it turned to specialist satellite and IoT technology-as-a-service provider Ground Control and its satellite connectivity partner, Inmarsat. Ground Control worked with specialist partners to design, develop and deploy four energy-efficient, solar-powered, IoT-enabled hydrological stations across RWE’s catchment areas.

RWE’s first IoT-enabled hydrology station in Snowdonia was installed in 2016, and three more have come into service since then. Each hydrology station measures and records water levels, precipitation, air and water temperatures and relative humidity. The system is underpinned by Inmarsat’s Elera network for IoT, which transmits the data gathered by the hydrology stations back to the RWE operations centre.

The data they gather helps RWE to generate power more efficiently by collecting as much water as possible into leats and waterways, which then flows into the lakes and reservoirs. Once the water is there, RWE can use it in its ongoing power-generating operations.

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