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SES and Microsoft partner to virtualise satellite ground networks

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SES and Microsoft have expanded their partnership through a new initiative to make satellite cloud-native service delivery architectures more open, virtualised and programmable.

The Satellite Communications Virtualisation Program aims to create a new fully virtualised satellite communications ground network delivering everything things like software-defined radios and customer edge terminals, new virtual network functions and edge cloud applications.

“For some years now, networks in the telco terrestrial world have been leveraging virtualisation and cloud-native architectural templates to maximise flexibility, programmability, automation, delivering true customer value,” said John-Paul Hemingway, chief strategy and product officer at SES.

“We are excited to work with Microsoft to spearhead this approach in the satellite communications world. This will promote standardised hardware and additional flexibility to add new services and capabilities at the customer edge via simple software updates – a gamechanger for the industry.”

Both believe the new virtualised ground network will support the alignment of cloud and satellite network architectures and accelerate the delivery of new value-added services to customers. It will also enable next-generation constellations to combine cloud and space for enterprise, government, telecom, airline, energy as well as other customers.

The first phase of the project will see SES and Microsoft issue a request for proposal in Q4 2022, for the first cohort of program participants.

“Satellite ground networks are a critical link in delivering global cloud solutions, and one that needs to be reimagined through industry collaboration for tomorrow’s on-demand, software-driven world,” said Steve Kitay, senior director of Azure Space at Microsoft.

“As our long partnership with SES shows, we view multi-orbit satellites as a key enabler of extending the power of Azure to our customers anywhere.

The customer edge for satellite ground networks is often in remote locations, which makes it expensive and complex to upgrade modems, edge terminals and other proprietary hardware. Conversely the satellite ground networks will act as an extension of cloud-native networks due to its open, standardised hardware that is programmable and upgradable via software.

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