In its bid to develop a global 5G network, EchoStar is sending up a nanosatellite, a smaller, lighter, cheaper-to-launch version of a normal satellite, to secure additional spectrum in the global non-geostationary S-band, according to Space News. It is the company’s third attempt after experiencing propulsion system failures with two previous nanosatellite launches.
There will be drama aboard the rocket as EchoStar has until an August deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union to secure a license that it gained through its 2019 acquisition of internet-of-things (IoT) startup Helios Wire.
“I’m pleased to report that we have been granted an extension of the key regulatory milestone reset to August 10, 2021,” EchoStar Chief Strategy Officer and President Anders Johnson said on the company’s second quarter earnings call. “Our third nanosat is expected to launch midyear, and we are evaluating options for additional spacecraft as we continue to use the EG-1 satellite for market testing.”
The S-band spectrum, which is designated by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to be frequencies from 2 GHz to 4 GHz, is dually licensed worldwide at the ITU level for terrestrial and satellite use. EchoStar’s S-band footprint spans parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Mexico and North America.
“We are continuing our work on multiple fronts to further our longer-term strategic goal of full integration of S-band satellite services into the global 5G networks,” Anders said.
EchoStar’s global 5G network may be integrated with DISH Network’s standalone, cloud-based 5G Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN), which is being deployed using spectrum in the S-band (AWS-4, 2000-2020 MHz / 2180-2200 MHz). DISH is a sister company to EchoStar (both owned by Charlie Ergen), and could use the nanosatellite service to backhaul signals in rural areas.
Nanosatellites can weigh as little as 2 pounds up to 22 pounds and can be placed into orbit for €500 thousand versus €5 million (US$608 thousand versus US$6.08 million) for a conventional satellite, according to Alen.Space, a nanosatellite company. They can be used for real-time data delivery to machine-to-machine devices, asset tracking, earth observation and spectrum observation.
The Hughes 4510 satellite/cellular hybrid terminal, introduced in May in Europe, automatically routes IP traffic via terrestrial or mobile satellite system networks using the S-band satellite service when the terminal is outside of terrestrial cellular coverage.
EchoStar Mobile, a sister company to Hughes, is going to use the 4510 terminal to enable its new Em Synergy™ service, hybrid connectivity across Europe using S-band satellite service in combination with pan-European mobile roaming for verticals, including government, maritime, oil and gas industry and yachting.
In 2019, EcoStar purchased Helios Wire, a Canadian startup that had launched the first of 28 planned smallsats to provide data connectivity for IoT applications from low Earth orbit.