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Tan Tian Seng, director, products and marketing at Singtel Satellite discussed in an exclusive interview with Telecom Review how the company is offering its customers a seamless communications experience. He also explained why Singtel Satellite is not involved in the aviation sector and how 5G will change the satellite industry.

What are the services that Singtel Satellite offers?

Singtel satellite offers a combination of fixed satellite applications, such as VSAT and video distribution, and mobility satellite services on the maritime ships for instance. In terms of fixed applications, we have customers in the video market. In India for example, we provide capacity for the direct-to-home content. We also provide broadcasters with our teleport facilities for them to uplink content to customers. We also cover the VSAT applications where we provide connectivity for the different verticals such as the financial sector, oil and gas, etc. to connect offices in areas that are not reachable by cables or cellular connectivity.

As for mobility, we provide maritime communications to our partners using our own capacity. We also have our own satellites - ST-1 and ST-2 - covering APAC and MEA regions. We provide connectivity and value added services to our maritime customers. For example, we have a specialized email for ship applications and provide firewall security. We also provide the crew with prepaid services so they can make calls to home and send emails and messages.

Almost all business processes rely today on internet. How can Singtel ensure uninterrupted connectivity?

Our teleports are all supported by Singtel’s terrestrial network because a satellite needs to connect back to the terrestrial world. Fortunately, we’re part of Singtel Group that is a large telco in this region, which allows us to have a full-fledged Singtel terrestrial backbone that is one of the most resilient networks that we have. We also have our own firewall gateways to ensure the connectivity provided is protected and secure.

So how do you ensure a secure communication?

Cybersecurity is a prime focus for Singtel now. Singtel acquired Trustwave, which is based in the US and constitutes a very strong cybersecurity arm offering a whole suite of cybersecurity solutions to our customers.

Security is now one of the key considerations when you sell any network, so we also ensure that our internet network supporting our customers is secure. The most important thing here is that we always practice what we sell.

Aviation and in-flight connectivity in particular, are not among the sectors that Singtel satellite covers. Why did you choose to focus only on the maritime industry when it comes to mobility services?

This is one of the markets we haven’t gotten it. We used to provide aviation services in the 1990s but at that time, the technology was not quite mature. After year 2000, we stopped the services and since then, we haven’t really considered resuming our activities.

The last few years have seen great developments of the technology so perhaps in the next era, we can see aviation as the new big thing for satellite business.

In the satellite business’ perspective, the maritime, TV and broadcasting industries are now quite mature but the aviation industry holds a lot of promises but the size here is one element to be addressed because the number of flights and number of passengers per flight is huge compared to maritime. But I think the technology is now more accessible and the price is much more affordable.

Where do you see the satellite industry heading?

There are a lot of developments happening in terms of High Throughput Satellite (HTS) and the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation is coming up. There are exciting developments that will change the whole industry. 

In your opinion, how will 5G affect the satellite industry?

Other than the fact that 5G needs more spectrum on the C-band, the technology will put more demand on bringing the cellular backhaul traffic back to the main switch and in some regions, the cable will not be able to meet the high demand which translates into more requirements for satellite capacity in what we call cellular backhaul.

In essence, regardless of the negativity that haunts the discussions about the impact on the C-band, the whole satellite industry will go through a new rejuvenation because of the increase of demand.

Because of the high traffic, data has taken over voice in the cellular world. As data explosion continues, the load on the networks will increase even more. In big countries such as Indonesia, satellite is the only way to pull the traffic back. I believe this will have a positive impact on the satellite industry as it will generate more demand.