As MSOs seek to make a play for enterprise and cellular backhaul service, an IP-based Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite platform could provide the means for extending past their current infrastructures.
“It’s a way for a cable operator to provide universal access to wherever a commercial customer wants to provide service,” says Richard Deasington, director/verticals marketing for iDirect, a satellite-based IP communications company.
In other words, operators gain reach into any location, even where it isn’t economically feasible to roll out fiber due to the remoteness or the unstable nature of the geography.
“Our customers use the satellite links to connect back to their headquarters offices or the Internet. Applications such as VoIP, video conferencing, browsing and virtual private network (VPN) are commonplace, thanks to the IP centricity of the technology,” adds James Trevelyan, head of sales, government and enterprise at Arqiva, which operates 20 hubs.
In addition, no matter where a business has offices, VSAT offers a secure alternate communications path for providing a backup system independent of terrestrial networks. “As robust as terrestrial is, there are still outages and, with mission-critical applications, you can‘t afford outages,” comments Sam Baumel, vice president/small media group at Hughes Network Systems.
While perceived in the past as a last-resort service due to high-cost and reliability concerns, today’s two-way VSAT platforms were built from the ground up, based on carrier-grade, IP-based technology.
An updated DVB-S2 standard combined with Adaptive Coding Modulation (ACM) has increased throughput efficiency and has alleviated performance issues related to inclement weather. Every few seconds, each remote reports its signal-to-noise ratio.
“If the dish is misaligned, on the edge of the beam or there is bad weather, the coding and modulation schemes can be adjusted to compensate,” Deasington says. Service levels can be guaranteed no matter the weather condition.
Advancements in acceleration and modulation techniques have mitigated the latency inherent to satellite. He continues, “In Web browsing, TCP acceleration allows for spooling, so you can eliminate the wait in order to overcome the laws of physics.”
Likewise with voice, there are techniques to manage jitter and to provide a high-quality MOS score. “We have the ability to set up all the way to a multi-megabit constant-bit-rate connection scheme,” says Hughes’ Baumel.
As it is for cellular backhaul, VSAT is certified for 3G+. “We can engineer something that is reasonable for a typical rural site: 2 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream,” Deasington explains, noting that femtocell integration is in the works. “VSAT is a way to provide 100-percent coverage in a region and to compete head-on.”
As the demand for more capacity increases across the board, the advancement of new Ka-band, 100+ gigabit satellite systems will enable VSAT to provide terrestrial-like IP broadband services, says Tom McCann, director/enterprise solutions at ViaSat. “That which was not economically viable on satellite will now become economically viable.”
This means a VSAT platform might be able to provide an enterprise customer with as much as 50 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream, he says, noting, however, that a more likely scenario would be 10 Mbps by 2 Mbps for a few hundred dollars per month.
From a capex perspective, a service provider can establish its own satellite network, purchasing all equipment outright or it can become a virtual network operator, utilizing hubs and teleports owned by a third party.
“We feed and water the hub equipment, but the effective management of the service is undertaken by the customer. The customer determines the level of oversubscription to put together their end user offering,” explains Nick Dowsett, director of IntelsatONE Network Solutions.
– Monta Monaco Hernon