Satellite-Based Solutions for Smart Societies

Patrick Masambu, Director General of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO) Blog

From September 25th to 28th, 2017, I attend the ITU Telecom World in Busan, Korea and will participate in the Leadership Summit panel, titled Digital transformation: visions of smart societies on September 25th.

The term smart means communities that are both economically and environmentally sustainable without sacrificing the comfort and quality of life for its citizens. It is the convergence of physical and digital infrastructure, where ICTs are used to make life more efficient and sustainable.[1] The scope of Smart Societies can encompass infrastructure and governance; energy and climate change; pollution and waste management; and applications regarding social, economy, and health initiatives.

However, there cannot be any real discussion of creating Smart Societies without making significant strides in connecting the unconnected and promoting digital inclusion. There are several different facets of digital inclusion: implementing infrastructure that facilitates coverage and connectivity, and social policies that promote access and use of ICTs and digital literacy. Those who are on the “have not” side of the digital divide are often the poor, marginalized sectors of society as well as those in rural, remote or geographically challenged areas.

In order to connect these vulnerable populations, it is necessary to look at different combinations of broadband technologies. Satellite-based solutions can help bring vital services to under connected populations either on their own or in combination with other technologies because:

  • Satellites are point-to-multipoint systems, i.e., they do not end at a single, specific point, but can reach all geographic targets within a given area, thus giving instantaneous coverage over a region.
  • Satellite technology is well suited to provide full coverage, in metropolitan as well as in rural or most remote areas, including mountainous regions, islands, the seas and the skies.
  • Satellite infrastructure already exists, the provision of services only requires the purchase of ground equipment.
  • The cost of services is independent of distance or number of subscribers.
  • Satellite operators can also work in commercial partnerships with terrestrial telecommunications networks to offer integrated service to users.

By using satellite-based solutions, it is possible to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness and thereby bridge vast distances to bring knowledge, assistance and resources to those who need it, wherever they are, in a sustainable manner that fits into the paradigms of Smart Societies. Satellite can also be a great asset to important aspects of Smart Societies such as service quality, environmental sustainability, resilient infrastructure, mobility, and responsiveness to IoT requirements.

For instance, in order to keep continuous service to Smart Societies, it is necessary that infrastructure be resilient enough to withstand natural and man-made disasters, so as to kickstart relief and reconstruction efforts. After a catastrophe, terrestrial infrastructure could be affected in such a way that connectivity is destroyed, making it impossible for government agencies and humanitarian organizations to deploy their relief efforts. Satellite infrastructure is an important part of resilient infrastructure because it is independent of terrestrial infrastructure and can be a dependable resource during earthquakes, tsunamis and any other kind of catastrophe to ensure that a nation’s telecommunications infrastructure is still functional.

Moreover, Smart Societies must take into account the increasingly mobile nature of broadband. Satellite technology is an important resource to mobility because it can provide mobile broadband on its own and serve as a valuable resource to mobile networks through its backhaul capabilities. Mobile satellite terminals can bring broadband to notoriously hard to reach sectors.

At the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO), one of our main objectives is to ensure global coverage and connectivity through the use of satellite communications and the ITSO treaty presents a powerful commitment to making available the necessary tools for countries to implement ICT projects such as smart societies and other elements of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In conclusion, I hope we can all work together to ensure that inclusive smart societies are attainable by all countries no matter their level of socio-economic development.

[1] See http://wftp3.itu.int/pub/epub_shared/TSB/ITUT-Tech-Report-Specs/2016/en/flipviewerxpress.html for more information.

About the Author
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Patrick Masambu, Director General of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO)

Patrick Masambu is the Director General of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO). He is also a Commissioner of the Broadband Commission on Sustainable Development, and a member of both the World Economic Forum’s Steering Committee for the Internet for All initiative and of the Advisory Board for the ITU-D’s m-Powering Development Initiative. Before assuming his post as Director General of ITSO, Mr. Masambu was ITSO’s Director of Technical Affairs. Before working at ITSO, he had held several top-level management positions in Uganda’s telecommunications sector. Mr. Masambu has, throughout much of his career, actively led and participated in the design, development and implementation of various works and initiatives at regional and international level institutions such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), African Telecommunications Union (ATU), World Bank and a number of Academic Institutions.