Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Japan's KDDI to use SpaceX for rural mobile backhaul

By Gagan Kaur, Total Telecom
Wednesday 15 September 21

Japanese telco KDDI announced that it would be using Elon Musks' SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband service as a backhaul provider for connecting 1,200 towers in remote areas. This will help the telecom company roll out high-speed wireless internet in rural areas of the country by early 2022…

Japanese telco KDDI announced that it would be using Elon Musks' SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband service as a backhaul provider for connecting 1,200 towers in remote areas.

This will help the telecom company roll out high-speed wireless internet in rural areas of the country by early 2022. In addition, SpaceX is building a constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites which can potentially make it easier and simpler to provide broadband in remote, rural areas. Since LEO satellites are positioned closer to Earth's surface, it allows service providers to offer high transmission speeds and low latency.

KDDI claims that this tie-up will allow it to offer "an urban mobile connectivity experience" to people in remote parts of the country.

One of the major problems service providers face in providing connectivity in rural areas is that it is tough to justify high investment when ARPU is typically low in remote areas and the returns are spread over a long time. Satellite can resolve this issue. While earlier the cost of satellite services was on the higher side but this is coming down with technology development.

Starlink already has an experimental licence in Japan issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for its ground station installed at KDDI's Yamaguchi Satellite Communication Center. Both, KDDI and SpaceX have been conducting tests to gauge its performance.

Starlink is currently in beta in 14 countries. According to SpaceX, under the beta services, users can expect massive variations in data speeds and latency. It also added that there was a possibility that there would also be brief periods of no connectivity at all. Starlink had previously said it expected its global satellite broadband service to be live this month.

SpaceX rival UK-based OneWeb is also aggressively working to grab market share. The company is targeting the wholesale space and has recently signed up many telcos and communications providers as its customers. Just this month itself, the company has signed wholesale distribution deals with Hughes, AT&T and Peraton. In May this year, OneWeb also partnered with KDDI rival SoftBank Corp to help develop "advanced seamless connectivity" in Japan and other markets.

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