Satellite operator O3b Networks signed a multi-million dollar, multi-year deal yesterday with Malaysian managed infrastructure services provider Maju Nusa to upgrade its satellite backhaul infrastructure for cellular networks to 3G.
Awarded under the auspices of Malaysia's Ministry of Communications, the deal allows Maju Nusa to leverage O3b's upcoming satellite network to deploy mobile data services further outside of urban centers into rural communities where there is little or no access to broadband.
"For many, this will mean that they will go from zero connectivity to 3G for cellular services practically overnight," said Maju Nusa MD Shahruddin Salehuddin. "At present people commonly need to travel out of their village simply to make a phone call. As well as helping us improve our service, O3b helps to reduce capex costs, aggregating our existing 111 sites over Peninsular Malaysia into only 20 customer terminal locations."
O3b CEO Steve Collar said that the deal represents the first large-scale 3G deployment backhauled over satellite in the world.
"That doesn't really exist anywhere in the world, and that's mainly because the cost of the satellite bandwidth is too high and the performance isn't too great," Collar told the Show Daily. "Six hundred millisecond latency is crappy for voice and data, and in mobile everything is encapsulated, so you can't overcome or compensate for that latency."
Collar says the biggest sticking point to cellular backhaul over satellite has been affordability - which also happens to be one of O3b's key selling points for its medium-orbit constellation. "If you can't manage the cost per megabyte of backhauling that data, it just dominates the affordability."