New technologies are dropping costs as low as US$2 per GB — and promise even better in the 5G rollout ​

Say Goodbye to the Bad Old Days

In the bad old days, satellite was the cellular backhaul option of last resort. The simple reason was cost. Satellites in high, geosynchronous orbit offered limited capacity because they operated mostly in C-band — the lowest of the satellite frequency bands — to ensure service levels in rain-soaked regions. Installation costs per site were through the roof, with big, seven-meter antennas requiring lots of civil works and high-powered transmit-and-receive gear. These limitations made satellite backhaul unaffordable in both capital and operating expense terms for mobile network operators (MNOs). The only exceptions were driven by regulation. To meet service requirements and avoid penalties, MNOs would install satellite-connected base stations to serve extremely remote locations, where a long-distance microwave link was even more expensive to install and maintain than satellite. In short, if you asked MNO executives their opinion of satellite in the bad old days, 10 out of 10 would say the same thing: “We don’t like it.”


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