Cellular Backhaul via Satellite and other amazing Feats: Interview with Newtec's CEO

Cellular Backhaul via Satellite and other amazing Feats: Interview with Newtec's CEO

Newtec in the press Wednesday 7 June 2017

Newtec's CEO, Thomas Van den Driessche, was interviewed by Tony Poulos, editor of DisruptiveViews and co-publisher of Disruptive.Asia, to talk about our satellite communication industry, Newtec's role including our solutions to help our customers.

Enjoy the interview as video or read the text version below:


Tony (left) interviews Thomas:

Tony Poulos: Hi Tony Poulos here at CommunicAsia 2017 in Singapore. With me today is Thomas Van den Driessche, who is the CEO of Newtec. Thomas, welcome, you’re in the satellite business, what part does Newtec play in the satellite business?

Thomas Van den Driessche: In the satellite business, there is an ecosystem of satellite operators and service providers catering different services and Newtec provides the ground segment equipment that’s both in the gateways, system design, system development, as well as terminals modems that go into the different applications. So, we are enabling the satellites to be used for many different markets.

Tony Poulos: We’re at the premier event in Asia at the moment, is Asia a big market for you and what part do you play in the Asian footprint?

Thomas Van den Driessche: Asia and, more specifically, South-East Asia is a very interesting satellite market because of the need for satellite versus fibre or other terrestrial means. What we are doing in Asia is, on the one hand we are doing the broadcast market obviously, direct to home, and that’s a large part of our industry. But also the voice and the data part which is cellular backhaul, which connects the towers that are doing LTE with satellite so that they can cater remote areas, rural areas, villages and so on and also islands and that is why places like Indonesia within South-East Asia have an interesting footprint for satellite. It is the diversity and geographical footprint there. So, cellular backhaul, broadcast industry, the growing markets also and connectivity of ships and planes for broadband and in-flight connectivity and true welfare for both. So quite a number of interesting satellite markets.

Tony Poulos: What’s driving you forward at the moment, what’s the driver for Newtec in the marketplace and where are you heading?

Thomas Van den Driessche: Newtec has been around for 32 years but we reoriented ourselves back in 2012 towards high-throughput satellites. As you know they consist of spot beams and offer way more performance for the applications we just mentioned than the previous generation and Newtec is quite unique in building very good HTS system for this type of satellite that are popping up between now and 2019 over Asia. The other drivers are basically the human drivers like people consuming more data and doing so anywhere and at any time and that’s the reason we are here.

Tony Poulos: In the mobile phone industry of course the mobile network we have these constant iterations and movements from 2G to 3G to 4G and it almost happens in a cycle, is the same thing happening with satellite comms or is it a bit more stable and a bit easier to keep up with?

Thomas Van den Driessche: In theory, it is more stable because we can carry 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G over the same type of modem structure for cellular backhaul, for example, and over the same type of satellite. So, we are fine, we are continuously improving the efficiency, the scalability and the number of megabits you can add to the equation because as you know 4G, for instance, consumes way more data per person than 3G, and it is a lot more of an experience; quality of experience is a lot higher and you can consume more data and carry more data over satellite as well if you have to. So, we are kind of transparent to that evolution but on the other hand the satellite industry is innovating very fast as well, its disruptive – even the satellites are new, the technology and the standards are new so we have come through a whole innovative cycle and that is going to continue between now and 2020.

Tony Poulos: Your customers presumably or most of your customers presumably are the phone operators or the networks at ground level if you are providing the backhaul but who is it you are buying from, do you actually buy the bandwidth to the satellites, do you manage that for these customers? 

Thomas Van den Driessche: No, we don’t, so again in the ecosystem we talked about, we have the satellite operators themselves that own the satellites, we have Newtec that is building and selling the ground segment technology and then you have service providers that buy the bandwidth, buy the technology and combine it into a service and Newtec is a pure technology player. This makes us a little bit unique because there are not many of those, only about three or four of those and there are about 30 satellite operators and hundreds and service providers catering to the telecommunication companies out there and to direct to home providers and other service providers.

Tony Poulos: We talked about Asia of course because we are in Asia but I presume you are working worldwide and you have systems operating all around the world?

If Mars would be populated, we would be there.

Thomas Van den Driessche: Absolutely, we have offices in all continents, we have services in North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and offices there up to the South Pole and the North Pole so we are everywhere basically. If Mars would be populated we would be there.

Tony Poulos: That’s a good story. Well Thomas it’s been really good catching up with you and I’m glad about the Newtec story and I’m wondering why we don’t hear more about satellite comms, we use the backhaul we use the phones but we don’t consider have difficult it is.

The beauty of the technology is that you don’t know it is there.

Thomas Van den Driessche: That is the beauty of satellite; people on a cruise ship or on a plane that are connected or people in a rural area that are on Wi-Fi, a hotspot for instance – they don’t know they are connected via satellite. If you are on a cruise ship it is like being in a resort like the one we are in here in the Marina Bay Sands. If you are on a cruise ship you have the exact same feelings but you are probably connected over satellite. So, the beauty of the technology is that you don’t know it is there.

Tony Poulos: And if you spend most of your life on an aeroplane like I do that is making my life a lot easier having access to the satellite communications. Thank you very much Thomas.

Thank you Tony for this interview!


This interview was first published on Disruptive.Asia.

About Us Disruptive.Asia

Disruptive.Asia covers the current state of digital disruption in the Asia-Pacific telecommunications industry – where it’s coming from, what’s driving it, the impact it’s having on the industry, how telecoms players are responding and what’s next.

The acceleration of next-generation telecoms/IT technology is turning traditional business paradigms on their heads. But that’s not a bad thing – digital disruption is creating new opportunities for APAC telecoms players savvy (and brave) enough to embrace it and become part of the disruptive vanguard. Our mission at Disruptive.Asia is to question it, make sense of it, and provide a reality check to the breathless hype driving the race to the 5G Digital Economy of Things (whatever that means).

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About Toni Poulos

Tony is a freelance writer, regular speaker, MC and chairman for the telecoms and digital services industries worldwide. He has founded and managed software and services companies, acts a market strategist and is editor of DisruptiveViews and co-publisher of Disruptive.Asia. In June 2011, Tony was recognized as one of the 25 most influential people in telecom software worldwide.