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The potential of satellite Technology for cellular backhaul in Latin America

Tecnologia satelital para el backhaul celular en Latinoamerica

Tecnologia satelital para el backhaul celular en Latinoamerica

Latin America, great potential of satellite technology for cellular backhaul.

As it is known in the sector, the terrestrial cellular networks already per se, by themselves do not meet the growing demand of the market and it is undeniable that the best complement is satellite technology.

Satellite connectivity not only allows cellular operators to provide the coverage and capacity required by their users and by government entities throughout the territory of a country, but also allows adding value to terrestrial networks. How? When a terrestrial cellular network becomes saturated, the capacity of satellite contingency on demand completes the traffic in an almost undetectable way for the user thanks to the flexibility of the technology that allows to manage more efficiently both the network and the resources required.

This greatly impacts the service experience of users, who today are more connected than ever and who in turn have become more demanding in terms of speeds, therefore a delay in the signal can be critical and negatively impact their experience.

Within this analysis we have identified 3 relevant advantages of using satellite cellular backhaul as the indicated option to connect remote areas:


Now, remote areas with few inhabitants are not only the ideal opportunity to expand coverage and generate new businesses by increasing the number of users but also some of these are consolidated as desirable tourist destinations in Latin America that require connectivity for their visitors.

Destinations such as Leticia in Colombia, with a population of 42,000 inhabitants and an internet penetration of just 15% in 2016, are being the scenario of important growth opportunities with new schemes for the provision of services and products that force the operator to adjust to the market and environment requirements. An example of this is the recent alliance between the largest mobile phone operator in Colombia and one of the most important satellite service providers in Latin America to strengthen 3G voice and data service in the area.

The city Iquitos, the sixth largest in Peru with 437,400 inhabitants, with non-existent terrestrial connectivity where its access is only by river or air, has become the #22 tourist destination in Latin America, and is amongst the 5 most visited in Peru with more of 100,000 tourists a year and a growing industry, it also supported its connectivity with a satellite cellular backhaul service.

Galapagos Islands in Ecuador which receives more than 200,000 tourists a year with high connectivity requirements also has a satellite cellular backhaul that covers its 25,000 inhabitants and also the demand of tourists with a free Wireless zone. Thus, it becomes the province of Ecuador with the highest internet penetration with 38% coverage.

Additionally, thanks to the various government programs at the departmental level and state policies for communications at all levels, the total coverage of the territory as a requirement to keep operating licenses active and with the general objectives of giving connectivity to all inhabitants, have driven an interesting demand model for the entire value chain of the telecommunications sector.


Cellular backhaul costs have dropped dramatically in recent years. The rapid technological evolution has expanded the available satellite capacity and supply and the demand for it has also been transformed. Today, economic conditions are ideal for operating under cost-efficient and flexible models, allowing operators to grow their network affordably in hard-to-reach areas with low population density.

Before, satellite technology was the last resource used by cellular operators to comply with legal requirements, today, this technology is being used more and more by the operators themselves, managing to expand their networks in a cost-efficient way.


Currently, according to the report on the behavior of the mobile economy in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017 by the GSMA (mobile operator organization), 9 out of 10 internet users connected from a mobile device, mostly Smartphones, through which they navigate for more than 90 minutes a day, doubling the time on fixed devices. The region has 300 million mobile internet users and by 2020 an increase of 50% is expected to reach 450 million, thus making Latin America the second fastest growing region in the world.

According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index for 2020, 5.5 billion mobile phones are estimated and data consumption will be multiplied by 6 representing 20% ​​of global data traffic. Likewise, mobile network speeds will increase threefold, from 6.8 Mbps to 20.4 Mbps. The use of the mobile network as the main source of connectivity in the region represents infrastructure challenges with significant socio-economic challenges and its rapid growth has stimulated digital economies “Between 2009 and 2013, investments in mobile infrastructure equivalent to 48 thousand million dollars have been made in Latin America and, with the deployment of LTE in full boil, an estimated 64 billion dollars of investment over the next 4 years while migrating to 5G technology ”

This behavior of both the region and consumers requires new alliances between various telecommunications players and a dynamic that evolves into new products that leverage a cost-efficient response for both service providers and users, in order to take advantage of the market opportunity available. Satellite connectivity has and will continue to play an important role in this dynamic.