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New Products, Old Regulations: The Example of HTS

Anna Guégan

Every day, new technologies bring us closer to ubiquitous connectivity. If the capabilities of technology is advancing at a fast pace, the same is not always true of regulations; when creating or marketing a new technology, regulation is likely to act as a bottleneck. Understanding regulatory challenges is therefore the foundation that your next move rest on. Although the target may be a global or regional market, it's essential that strategies are designed both well in advance and target each jurisdiction individually.

High Throughput Satellites

High Throughput Satellites (HTS) is a good example of how innovation challenges out-of-date regulations. HTS are communications satellites that provide significantly higher data rates with lower bandwidth. With HTS, satellite connectivity has never been so affordable and so easily scalable; they present the opportunity to connect hundreds of thousands of people quickly and easily.

Until now, consumer broadband was mostly supplied by mobile or fibre technologies. Using satellites for consumer broadband was not a viable option due to high cost and low bandwidth. HTS are changing this. Satellites are becoming a competitive option, particularly in remote locations. The technical capability is here and growing, and it's now regulatory frameworks hindering market expansion. Understanding these challenges and how to address these is therefore essential.

Assessing the market and its rules

There are a few ways to be compliant with regulatory frameworks, but there are a hundred ways to set-up your network in violation of local laws, which can delay or stop your progress. By identifying key regulatory challenges well ahead of time, you can avoid unknown issues and potential barriers, whether they're technical infrastructure requirements, high regulatory costs or other market risks.

Middle-Eastern jurisdictions provide a good example of infrastructure challenges; regulations often require in-country infrastructure, affecting the service architecture of the entire network. Regulatory costs challenges are exemplified by fee architectures in West Africa, where satellite service costs were originally developed based on private corporate networks, leaving consumer broadband networks facing hugely disproportionate costs. The introduction of new products always involves some level of risk. These are particularly high, for example, when the proposed frequency ranges may not be currently allocated to that service; or the operation of the technologies or services is banned due to restrictive markets or protectionism for existing license holders.

Addressing challenges

How can these challenges be addressed? It is usually about asking the right questions of the right people. Once you have the information, what are your options for adapting, engaging or breaking new ground?

The network may be adapted in a variety of ways using information from the market assessment to meet regulatory infrastructure requirements. By understanding any underlying purpose of the requirement and through negotiation, it may be possible to find a middle ground (limited infrastructure, remote access, etc.)
Engaging with regulators and governments gives you opportunity to highlight how important your service is, how it improves lives and the economy. It also allows negotiations on the application of the framework, and highlighting best practice in other countries, which can greatly influence outcomes. When the regulatory environment is particularly difficult or the regulatory costs are too high, engaging in a partnership with the right local company can help shift the regulatory burden, although costs may also increase.

If your technology is ground-breaking, a review by intergovernmental technical working groups guarantees safety. That stamp of approval prompts a domino-effect, as more countries authorise its use. This can be seen in the allocation of frequency ranges for a specific service, but also applies to existing technology in a new environment (for example, on-board aircraft below a certain altitude).

Launching your service

The introduction of global satellite broadband offers the chance of truly global connectivity, extending the range of market opportunities for consumer service. It places the once-exclusive satellite service at the core of everyday society alongside mobile services and other technologies. The integration of HTS into consumer connectivity is essential to ensure a thorough and complementary provision of service, so that connectivity is possible in remote islands and maintained when ground infrastructure is down.

Country-specific regulatory frameworks can significantly hinder the expansion of HTS nationally and regionally, or the expansion of any new technology. Overcoming such issues requires a strategy that asks the right questions, knows the local market conditions and importantly what levers to pull to overcome such potential barriers. There is no substitute for knowing your market and addressing these key issues at a very early stage of your roll out plans.

By Anna Guégan, Manager, Policy and Market Access at Access Partnership
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Share your comments

What are the right questions? Anthony Rutkowski  –  Apr 06, 2017 5:08 PM PDT

As a one time satellite regulator, I'm curious as to what are those "right questions." It would also be helpful to provide a few links to HTS technical and operational references.  It appears the special sauce is the use of higher order modulation and coding schemes, among other cool tricks, although some seem to characterize the primary technique is the simultaneous use of multiple smart beams carrying spoofed TCP streams.  The ADLittle report seems useful.  ITU-R also seems to have a number of useful papers and presentations on the interplay between the regulations and the technologies.  Please provide more information.

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