SES is considering a direct-to-handheld 5G satellite service

After saving spectrum rights for 62 projected satellites that were set to expire, SES is exploring offering 5G services straight to handheld devices. Luxembourg’s government applied to the ITU in 2015 for the Cleosat constellation, but it was on the verge of losing it unless SES utilized at minimum one of its satellites to acquire the frequencies by May 10 – two days before the due date.

As the project’s seven-year deadline approached, Luxembourg launched a request for proposals from firms interested in pursuing the project, and SES was chosen to run Cleosat early this year. SES external communications’ vice president, Suzanne Ong stated via email, “We filed for this filing via the Lux govt because we understand the possibility of direct-to-handheld 5G satellite access in the years to come.”

“At this time, we haven’t made a choice to invest heavily in this technology, and we are going to examine the market as well as business plans in the next months as part of our due diligence.” The company hasn’t spoken much about its plans, and the Luxembourg government hasn’t said much either.

In December, Luxembourg released a request for companies interested in gaining control of Cleosat’s regulatory file, stating that the network’s services are going to be global and comprise fixed satellite services, mobile satellite services, tracking, and telecommand services.

The planned Cleosat constellation covers 62 satellites in non-geostationary orbits (NGSO) between 519 to 8,062 kilometers, using different frequency bands ranging from 1.5 to 29 GHz.

The O3b Networks network of twenty medium-Earth-orbiting satellites operated by SES runs at 8,063 kilometers above the equator, utilizing 17-19 GHz frequencies to provide high-speed broadband services to mostly enterprise and government users. In addition, the company operates broadband and broadcast satellites in geostationary orbit.

It’s unclear whether SES is considering ways to connect smartphones and consumer devices, as satellite firms Link Global and AST SpaceMobile are doing. As the 3GPP, the mobile industry group attempts to include satellite frequencies into global 5G standards for the first time, satellite networks, in general, will become more interoperable with terrestrial wireless infrastructure.

Satellite operators anticipate that by working together to standardize backhaul as well as other space-based capabilities, they are going to be able to gain a larger portion of the telecoms industry. Globalstar’s satellites are still being linked to Apple iPhones for urgent services, according to reports.

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