The four satellites originally scheduled for a late-September launch have been returned to Thales Alenia for examination

O3b returns satellites to manufacturer but promises full 3G

Startup satellite broadband company O3b Networks has shipped its second group of four satellites back to Thales Alenia after discovering a signal power problem in those already in orbit.

The discovery was named to be the reason for the company to call of the late-Septemeber launch. According to Space News, the four satellites will undergo two weeks of testing in Thales Alenia’s facilities in Rome.

The hitch observed in at least two of the four satellites already in orbit has been said not to put the operations at risk.

As all upcoming launches of Soyuz going from the European Spaceport in Kourou are fully booked, O3b would most probably have to wait until early 2014.

According to Space News, the company won’t start negotiating the new launch date until the results of the tests are known, hopefully ruling out the anomaly requiring re-engineering of the satellites.

The third group of four satellites to complete the O3b constellation is currently being built by Thales Alenia and was expected to be launched in mid-2014.

Earlier this week, O3b has announced a partnership with Huawei that would lead to the two companies enabling the world’s first full 3G voice, data and video over satellite.

O3b has been testing the compatibility of its systems with those of Huawei in Huawei’s Interoperability Lab in Shanghai, China.

“Huawei testing and passing O3b’s network proves that O3b is almost equivalent to fibre for rural 3G/4G and enterprise communications deployment,” said O3b’s CEO Steve Collar. “By comparison, the latency of geostationary satellites means that there is a noticeable delay in voice conversations and many mobile data applications either perform slowly or not at all.”

Huawei views the deployment of satellite-based rural broadband as a critical resource for operators, governments and enterprises in remote locations or areas lacking terrestrial infrastructure. It is also of great value to provide such services for people and operations in rigorous environments such as marine ships, drilling platforms in the ocean, and cities in disasters.

O3b says its medium Earth orbit satellite fleet will offer capacities four times greater than normal geostationary-earth orbit satellite services.

The two companies believe they will be able to provide considerably enhanced services with seamless voice, video and data communications.

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