September 19, 2021

Solving the connectivity divide with space-based solutions and collaboration

Case Study By

Mr. Stephen Spengler

Chief Executive Officer, Intelsat

State of Broadband 2021

The ideas and opinions expressed in this insight are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of ITU and UNESCO or the Broadband Commission. The mention of specific companies, products or services does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by ITU or UNESCO or Broadband Commission in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

In today’s increasingly connected digital world, access to reliable connectivity is still largely dependent on where you live. And the reality is that hundreds of millions of people living in remote, rural and hard-to-reach places around the world still struggle to access basic broadband services in 2021. 
The global COVID-19 crisis put this connectivity gap front and center. Connectivity proved essential for telemedicine and other important health resources. And, we all witnessed the lifeline that reliable connectivity has offered during a time when social interaction and traditional mobility have been significantly curtailed.

And, yet, during the pandemic, we have seen too many schoolchildren in rural and underserved areas struggling to access online lessons, and too many small businesses in remote localities unable to transition their products to online markets.

We know that providing broadband access and mobile network coverage to remote, rural, and hard-to-reach places is vital to the health, safety, welfare, and future of the hundreds of millions of people who live, work, and travel there. So, why do so many people in so many of these places around the world today still lack basic connectivity?

Put simply, there is a lack of communications infrastructure to support remote connectivity. This is largely due to an over-reliance on terrestrial solutions for connecting remote cell sites, which can be cost-prohibitive and complicated to install over long distances or challenging terrain, such as mountains, dense forests, or islands. The fact is that most communications service providers see a limited return-on-investment for these types of terrestrial infrastructure build-outs, given the low subscriber fees obtained in low-population-density areas.

This is why satellites, and satellite communications solutions, are so important. Only satellites can quickly and cost-effectively bring reliable connectivity to hundreds of Wi-Fi access points and cell sites – no matter how rural or hard-to-reach the location. In fact, satellite network operators play a unique role in bringing voice and data services across vast geographic areas, and even entire countries or regions.

At Intelsat, we work with communications service providers (CSPs), government regulators, and non-governmental organizations to develop and implement new ways to address the need for broadband and mobile connectivity, especially in the numerous rural and hard-to-reach areas that remain unconnected today.

We believe that with the right mix of investment, partnership, service, and innovation, the private and public sectors can work together to quickly develop and implement flexible, cost-effective – and profitable – solutions to close the global connectivity gap.