June 11, 2019

Reimagine Cellular Connectivity: Hybrid Networks

Cell Backhaul - Hybrid Networks

Redefining Cellular Connectivity with Hybrid Networks

While Netflix and YouTube are probably the most well-known over-the-top (OTT) platforms, today cable cutters have more OTT options than ever. There are OTT gaming services, news platforms, live streaming options and more. And much of this OTT content is reaching its viewers over cellular networks rather than via traditional set-top boxes and television sets. For example, a TV and media report for Nigeria conducted by Ericsson ConsumerLab found that even with poor mobile broadband coverage and expensive data packages, Nigerians are consuming more OTT content on mobile platforms than on TV.

The growth of OTT platforms presents an opportunity for satellite. That’s because satellite is a natural complement to cellular and terrestrial networks burdened by the growing demand for OTT content. In fact, thanks to multicasting — satellite’s ability to reach many sites at once — and developments in storage, edge computing, and content distribution, we predict that satellite is primed to play an active role in new hybrid content delivery networks today and in the future.

Content Is Still King

Today, video is the king of content demand — and it will be long into the future. In fact, NSR predicts that by 2022, 82 percent of all IP traffic will be video. From the latest newscasts to full-length movies, people are using their personal devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to stream video content and stay connected at all times. This is especially prominent in underdeveloped regions where terrestrial rollout cannot keep up with connectivity demand.

All this demand for OTT content puts pressure on terrestrial networks in both rural and urban geographies. To ensure a faster rollout and relieve some of this pressure, mobile network operators can invest in creating hybrid networks using mobile connectivity to support their terrestrial services. Already, exploding IP video and data consumption saw hybrid networks capture over a half a million sites by the end of 2018, according to NSR.

Hybrid Network Use Cases

As demand for content continues to grow, NSR says hybrid networks will become especially prevalent in underdeveloped regions where terrestrial buildout is more expensive. The highest levels of demand for hybrid content networks, NSR predicts, will come from emerging countries with large territories, such as Brazil, or specific areas with geographical difficulties, such as island nations.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, satellite has the power to relieve congestion in densely-populated urban areas where demand during peak hours is too high for terrestrial networks alone. For instance, while a large event that brings thousands of people to the city center might traditionally put a strain on terrestrial networks, a hybrid connectivity solution would be able to relieve some traffic congestion via mobile satellite terminals that are deployed at a moment’s notice.

Disaster response efforts and other government agencies will also benefit from hybrid networks that have the power to keep operations connected, even when core networks go down. For example, many severe weather incidents cause extensive damage that knock out existing terrestrial networks. With a hybrid network, a first response team arriving at the disaster site could toggle between available cellular and satellite networks without time-consuming manual switching, so they could better focus on life-saving activities.

The Perfect Pairing: Satellite and New Advanced Technologies

In a hybrid network, satellite’s multicasting paired with edge computing and local content storage for popular, on-demand and bandwidth-heavy content would free up terrestrial networks for other traffic and save time and money over traditional unicast. This could be especially valuable in high-density areas where mobile network operators want to better utilize their valuable 4G, LTE and soon 5G capacity. In fact, Cisco predicts more than one third of capacity will bypass the core completely by 2022.

At iDirect, we’re already working to leverage the capabilities of satellite to build the hybrid networks of the future. We recently participated in a project named OSMOSIS, where video content distribution technology was designed to operate over a satellite network with 4G, 5G and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) integration. Leveraging 3GPP network architecture, comprising Software-defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), iDirect was able to showcase an efficient edge delivery of multimedia content in a 5G testbed.

We’re on our way to develop hybrid networks, and they are just the first step in redefining cellular connectivity. In our next blog, we will explore how 5G will bring even more use cases for which satellite and multi-access connectivity will be essential.

See iDirect at GVF Cellular Backhaul, Co-located with 5G World

Growth in cellular backhaul is an important step for satellite to be considered for 5G. Join Savyon Wasser, Director Vertical Market Solutions, Product Management, on 13 June at 1130 – 1315 where he’ll be presenting on “The Mobile Ecosystem…. Satellite 5G Use Cases.” You’ll learn about the drivers, trends and solutions that will enable mobile network operators to extend the reach of any backhaul scenario.