Catherine: Mark, it was great seeing you at the Satellite Innovation Symposium in Silicon Valley and again yesterday at the DC5G conference. I know we’ve been planning to do a Mobility News interview for some time but so much is happening in the industry and with Clarke Belt 2.0 that I think it is ideal that we are doing the interview now.
To begin, can you give our readers the back story on the name Clarke Belt 2.0 and explain the mobility innovations you are seeking to take to market?
Mark: Certainly, thank you for the Mobility News interview opportunity. Clarke Belt 2.0 is a new petabit per second capacity constellation design named after an updated version of Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s original Clarke Belt concept in his now famous Wireless World magazine article published in 1945, titled “Extra-Terrestrial Relays”.
The Clarke Belt 2.0 Project is a 3-year-old startup that uniquely re-envisions the use of spectrum and cost-effective application of recent and future technical capabilities, using hard lessons learned during the past 50 years. Clarke Belt 2.0 specifically addresses the creation of two additional “spots in our 3-dimensional sky” enabling reuse of virtually all the existing satellite spectrum without interfering with existing or future GEO constellations while leveraging new technology innovations such as flat plate antennas and reusable launchers designed to enable up to ten times lower-cost access to space. This, in turn, will create a greater revenue opportunity for satellite in the larger telecom market with 5G deployments to be rolled out over the next 20 – 30 years.
Clarke Belt 2.0 was designed to solve a specific set of technical and economic problems, including:
Spectrum Usage. We can achieve two-to-three times more use of the spectrum using a non-interfering (both electrical and physical conjunctions) design with a 3 apogee NGSO 8-hour (time segment) orbit, providing a new basis for sharing the existing satellite spectrum over the entire world and specific reuse over the crowded / best GDP markets.
UHTS Digital Payload Processing. A scalable, modular constellation design with over a petabit-per-second capable IP Service offering that is competitive and / or complementary to terrestrial offerings by efficiently placing the data where and when it is needed using the latest standards-based beam-hopping / forming technologies and sending it to inexpensive end user terminals.
Quick Revenue Generation and Expansion. A cost-effective shared access schema using six initial satellites enabling 24/7 coverage of over 80 percent of the World GPD, and a time segment-based sharing formula using two additional satellites enabling constellation capacity to be doubled and tripled over the heaviest Internet usage periods in a given region.
It is important to note however that even as a non-geostationary satellite (NGSO) constellation, CB2.0 will not effectively compete with 5G service inside buildings nor as a direct competitive capacity to end users in urban and suburban areas, once 5G is actually built out. However, the satellite industry definitely has a complementary and critical role to play to make the overall 5G Capex rollout and subsequent Opex of the network cost efficient for everyone serving the end user. We, as the satellite industry, have to obey the laws of physics and will never have the single-digit latency that 5G will offer terrestrially. For specific use cases such as real-time AR and VR, 5G will simply better suited technically.
Catherine: How will your approach benefit mobile connectivity users? And, what specific users will you be targeting?
Mark: Mobile connectivity users will benefit from more options for small footprint, low-power standards-based hardware, interoperability, higher service capacity with less costly data speeds, specific and unique value-added offerings to differentiate client propositions, more network and client control and the possibility of becoming a Virtual Satellite Operator (VSO) on a shared CB2.0 platform.
The targets are the 150+ countries who are not participating in the “New Space Race”; existing MSS and regional FSS satellite operators who want to expand their respective footprints, markets and service offerings; VARs in specific large marketplace verticals; high-value mobility customers that are not capable of being served with their existing satellite constellations; and operators that want to limit their Capex risk. Shared resources with partners will be a hallmark of the CB2.0 business plan.
Catherine: I read that you Clarke Belt 2.0 was a recent FinSpace Award finalist. Congratulations on this achievement as recognition at this level indicates progress with the development of your program. What is the status of your program?
Mark: Yes, we were honored to be selected from among so many excellent international submittals. My partner, David Lewis, represented Clarke Belt 2.0 at the Euroconsult awards WSBW event in Paris. The investor response has been excellent resulting in the 1st of what we hope to be many, outside investments in CB2.0.
Catherine: What do you estimate the revenue opportunity of 5G to be to the satellite community?
Mark: I believe 5G to be a sizeable revenue opportunity for the satellite community. Even the “crumbs” of the multi-trillion dollar 5G rollout will be big for us. The 5G transformation can easily mean a multi-hundred-billion-dollar opportunity for the satellite industry over the next 10 years. To take advantage, we need to be viewed as an integral and viable part of supply chain enabling ubiquitous and reliable service coverage for the “mutual” 5G end user. Industry experts say that it will take 20 to 30 years to achieve 50 to 80 percent coverage in given markets and to roll-out the tens of millions of additional cell sites required. The satellite industry, if we move quickly and smartly, will have plenty opportunity to enable a significant portion of the promised 10 to 100 times connectivity improvement during the 5G deployment and subsequent operation.
Catherine: So you believe the satellite industry should be excited about 5G. What should the industry focus on to take advantage of this opportunity?
Mark: Yes, the current satellite operators should be excited -- also pragmatic and vigilant – about the long-term opportunity 5G offers. The mobile industry is used to exclusivity of spectrum and is just starting to share resources in the way that the satellite industry has done since its inception. The satellite industry needs to position and promote the unique and inherent advantages we offer over other IP service platforms, including -- ubiquity, mobility, and rapid worldwide deployments, just to name a few.
To optimize this outcome, the satellite industry can fully leverage the latest technologies and innovations coming to market, including: the new non-geostationary satellite orbits (NGSO), power-efficient UHTS modular payloads, software-defined satellites, buses that can be configured, tested and launch-ready in 12-months or less, the cost-effective flat-plate Electronically Steerable Array (ESA) antennas, and multiple-use launcher technologies enabling access to space at ten times lower cost.
Simply put, there has never been a greater growth opportunity for new and growing satellite businesses. 5G marks real market opportunity for the next 20-30 years.
Catherine: What do you see as the biggest challenges of the 5G roll-out?
Mark: The biggest challenge will be for both the satellite and mobile industry to develop a, repeatable, scalable business plan with a sustainable average revenue per unit (ARPU) that will be accepted by the investment community and shareholders. The race to connect more people everywhere with cost-effective connections will result in competition between segments that will likely prove fierce. Mobile operators have plateaued in revenue per subscriber despite smart phone service bundles and unlimited data packages. To be part of a cost-effective 5G roll-out, industry players will need to effectively integrate and / or compete with the Wi-Fi / Unlicensed spectrum offerings.
Over the next 5-7 years, the satellite industry is expected to go through its largest cost reduction per delivered bit, dramatically reducing the cost of service to as low as a single digit cost per delivered Gb. Even with all currently planned NGSO constellations becoming successfully deployed, the satellite industry would still only be securing a single-digit market share of the multi-trillion dollar 5G telecom market. Yes, even the “crumbs” are BIG!
Catherine: Clearly there is a lot of complexity (technical, security, privacy, bandwidth, and regulator) in the evolution towards 5G. What aspects are most significant to the satellite community and should we be working collectively to influence the development of standards?
Mark: In comparison to the overall telecommunications industry, the satellite market as a whole is very small in total revenue numbers, so satellite players must work together through various satellite industry organizations to achieve a competitive position in 5G negotiations and standards-setting bodies or we will be absorbed/displaced by the telecom operators and/or other new entrants.
The three most important areas of focus are:
A) Spectrum retention and rules for spectrum sharing at WRC 2019;
B) Telecom 5G, small cell and other industry standards organizations for the silicon and hardware developers
C) Interfaces specifications for interoperability, network compatibility, and plug and play industry test bed events.
It is important that we all support efforts underway by groups such as Global VSAT Forum (GVF), Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), Digital Video Broadcast (DVB), Small Cell Forum (SCF), Mobile Satellite Users Association (MSUA) and other industry organizations. It is critical that a standards-based silicon is available to our industry and that we all have the opportunity to be compatible and interoperable with what will become 5G.
In my opinion, a market-based solution, within reasonable regulatory guidelines that actually results in “best use” for end user, is definitely the preferred path forward for both the telecom and satellite communities. A great example of this approach is comparable to the shared spectrum and shared resources initiative following the latest CBRS Alliance on the 3.5Ghz Spectrum here in the US.
Catherine: What are your final thoughts on the future of mobile connectivity?
Mark: Mobility service will only become better in the future -- seamless, reliable, consistent ubiquitous service, more options and better quality for less money. The next generation of users will expect and demand (with their dollars), to be connected everywhere. Mobility will only grow. The future will only become brighter with mobile connectivity that has imbedded capabilities and applications available wherever you decide to go. Mobile connectivity is driving huge transformation across the industry. Satellite’s greatest strength is delivering services from one to many. In the new IP world however, satellites will be required to facilitate the growing need for “many to many” connectivity, similar to what the Internet was originally intended to be.
The future roadmap will include a continuum of new developments coming from many areas. Moore’s Law of silicon, is finally impacting, in a significant way, the space-qualified hardware and ground networks used for security, blockchain technology, low cost transactions, universal currency, “smart contracts” and end-user, low-powered multi-frequency remotes.
Catherine: That wraps the professional questions. Now for a personal question. What’s your favorite form of “recreational mobility” (eg. motorcycle riding, running, skateboarding, etc.).
Mark: Virtually any type of fishing together with friends and family, but especially fly fishing. I also enjoy snorkeling, diving and football/soccer.
Catherine: Many thanks Mark. On behalf of MSUA and the readers of Mobility News, thank you for taking the time to share with us your news and perspective.