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SES and Vodafone team to deliver 4G and future 5G services via satellite to Papua New Guinea

Latest development in satellite-based connectivity sees new mobile operator in southwestern Pacific island supported by terrestrial and satellite providers to boost further digital opportunities

In the latest development showing how satellite communications are gaining a higher orbit in global telecoms, operator SES has teamed with Digitec Communications, trading as Vodafone PNG, to provide 4G and 5G high-speed mobile broadband services in Papua New Guinea (PNG) through a new mobile service provider.

With over 86% of its population residing in rural areas, much of PNG’s population is still underserved, despite an increase in internet penetration across the country at 15% and mobile connections at 34% as of January 2021.

Having started delivering services in April, Vodafone is the third largest and newest mobile operator in PNG. Its entry into PNG’s telecommunications market is designed to address demand among consumers and businesses for reliable high-speed connectivity and broadband internet access.

The companies announced that the high-speed data service will be delivered via SES’s O3b medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellation, which they assure will further enable economic opportunities and bridge the digital divide in the world’s second-largest island. Under this partnership, the O3b MEO satellite constellation will provide Digitec with high-speed mobile backhaul services for five locations in PNG.

“Papua New Guinea’s mobile and internet market has enormous growth potential, but this has been hampered by geographical challenges, limited speed and connectivity choices,” said Vodafone PNG director Ivan Fong.

“We are pleased to partner with SES to provide reliable high-bandwidth mobile connectivity of up to 5G speeds delivered through its MEO satellites. This connectivity will enable more people here to fully embrace the digital age,” added Fong.

SES claimed its O3b system is the world’s only commercially successful non-geostationary satellite system and delivers low-latency, high-performance connectivity worldwide. The fibre-like speeds claimed are said to enable the delivery of cloud computing applications and services to bridge the digital divide, while connecting communities and industries regardless of the remoteness of the location.

Connectivity from the MEO satellite constellation is not new to PNG, having been used by other mobile operators and internet service providers in the country since 2014. It also helped with connectivity needs when PNG hosted the APEC 2018 summit.

“With our O3b constellation, we’ve been connecting communities and industries around the world for almost a decade, positively impacting their lives and their businesses,” said SES vice-president pacific, network sales, John Turnbull.

“Our partnership with Digitec brings its customers a reliable, high-throughput and low-latency solution, underscoring the value of our unique satellite connectivity. We are proud not just to be an enabler of Digitec’s plans to bring more services and opportunities to the population of Papua New Guinea, but also to serve as the backbone for fuller participation in the digital era and greater digital inclusion,” he added.

The PNG deal comes just after Andesat, the leading satellite service provider in the Andean region, revealed that it had tapped SES to offer enhanced connectivity services via the SES-14 satellite, supporting enterprise services and universal service obligation (USO) commitments over Chile and Peru.

In Chile, Andesat will use SES-14’s mix of wide beams and high-throughput spot beams to support a broad range of advanced, traffic-intensive network applications for the agro-fishing and mining industries, even in the most remote areas across the country.

In Peru, as part of project Te Conectamos Perú, Andesat will boost voice and broadband connectivity access and will be able to offer high-throughput satellite services that it says are reliable, affordable and cloud-ready using SES’s Managed Enterprise Services in 280 remote sites by the end of 2022.

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